Book Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Synopsis: In modern-day London, Rachel, an alcoholic, rides the train twice a day and develops a fascination with one of the houses she sees from the train. Megan and Scott live in the house, which happens to be down the street from Rachel’s ex-husband, Tom, and his new wife, Anna. When Megan goes missing, Rachel becomes involved in the investigation.

 Review: I really wanted to love this book. It has so many things going for it that I usually love – an unreliable narrator, chapters told from different points of view, a non-linear story, and it’s a psychological thriller. But, unfortunately, I didn’t love the book. I started out loving it – and I was never able to really put it down or get it out of my head while reading it, so that’s a plus. But the ending – oh! the ending … what a let down.

The Girl on the Train is told from the point of view of three different female characters. Rachel, Megan, and Anna. Rachel is the girl who rides the train, and she is obsessed with her ex-husband, Tom, and his wife Anna. Rachel also becomes fascinated with a house and a couple, Megan and Scott, whom she sees on her twice-daily train rides. One day Megan goes missing. This brings Rachel into the investigation. Did she see something that is useful to the investigation? Did she witness a murder? Did she witness an argument? Is she just imagining things?

The pace is very fast in this book. The sentences pull you in, and make you want to read faster to get to the end and figure out the mystery. I liked how the book was written. The one thing I wasn’t too sure of was the different characters point of view chapters. I don’t know that the characters each had their own unique voice. I would be reading and would have to flip back to the chapter title to remember which character was telling the story. Since I was reading this on a Kindle, this was extremely annoying (when will I learn not to read books like this electronically?!) Each chapter is titled with the characters name who is telling the story, and a date. I didn’t really pay attention to the dates that much. Once I figured out that Megan’s story started earlier than both Anna’s and Rachel’s, I really didn’t have to remember the dates (thank goodness – I’m terrible with dates and numbers).

I really liked the character of Rachel, and I really loved her story.  I wanted her to crack the case, and I wanted her to get a hold of herself and her drinking. Anna and Megan eh – I didn’t really think there was anything special about either of them, and that may have been why I didn’t love this book. I also did not connect with any of the male characters; I just did not care about them.

Megan goes missing, and later on they find some evidence, but I just kept thinking as I read – where is the CSI team? What are the detectives doing? They never seemed to be working the case, never responding to phone calls, and what evidence they do find, they don’t seem to really pay attention to. It just seemed very off … like, really, Sherlock Holmes would’ve gone in and taken one look at everything and instantly known what happened. I realize that you aren’t seeing things from the officials perspective, but c’mon.

They are making a movie of this book, and have cast Emily Blunt as the lead. I can easily envision her as Rachel, and I think she’ll do an excellent job. But I don’t know how they are going to film parts of this book. It is easy in a book to have some scenes with mystery characters (people identified as “he” or “she”), which you can’t quite film without letting that secret out, so it will be interesting how they attempt to do certain scenes, or if they just decide to put everything in a “tell it all” montage once things start to click. And of course, another book where the villain tells all at the end. I guess it’s good that you hear everything, but really, so cliché. So once I finished the book, I was disappointed. Maybe because all the hype around this book was so positive, I was expecting to be blown away … but nope. It did make me want to take a train trip though. And drink a gin and tonic.

Bottom Line: Very exciting and readable, but the ending was a letdown. I was expecting more.

Favorite Quotes:

  • They’re a match, they’re a set. They’re happy, I can tell. They’re what I used to be, they’re Tom and me five years ago. They’re what I lost, they’re everything I want to be.

  • I have never understood how people can blithely disregard the damage they do by following their hearts. Who was it said that following your heart is a good thing? It is pure egotism, a selfishness to conquer all.

  • “What happened to you, Rachel?” he asked me. “When did you become so weak?”  I don’t know. I don’t know where that strength went, I don’t remember losing it. I think that over time it got chipped away, bit by bit, by life, by the living of it.

You might like:

  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – Similar in tone, this tells the story of Amy and Nick, a married couple. Amy goes missing, and the cops suspect Nick had something to do with her disappearance. I think this is the better book, but the characters are far more likeable in The Girl on the Train.
  • The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud – this book is about Nora who becomes obsessed with a family. The book chronicles her obsession and love for each of the family members (father, mother, and son), and has a graphic ending you will never forget. I didn’t love this book, but I read it a few years ago and keep thinking back to it.
  • Mudwoman by Joyce Carol Oates – one of the creepiest books I’ve ever read. Another unreliable narrator and psychological thriller.
  • He Love Me, He Loves Me Notthis one is a movie, not a book, but if you don’t speak French, you will need to read the subtitles! Starring Audrey Tautou, this film has a romantic thriller quality to it and is another obsession piece.

And I need to go read:

            – anything by Sylvia Plath. I’ve never read any of her work, and she is mentioned in this book.


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