Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Girl on the Train

Title:  The Girl on the Train
Author:  Paula Hawkins
Publication Information:  Riverhead Books. 2015. 336 pages.
ISBN:  1594633665 / 978-1594633669
Book Source:  I read this book based on its publicity and the cover.

Opening Sentence:  "She's buried beneath a silver birch tree, down towards the old train tracks, her grave marked with a cairn."

Favorite Quote:  "He never understood that it's possible to miss what you've never had, to mourn for it."

Rachel Watson is the girl on the train. Unable to have children. Recently divorced. Recently unemployed. With a drinking problem. With a tendency for alcoholic blackouts. With a fixation on stalking her ex-husband and his new wife. A somewhat pitiful sight, and a great, unreliable narrator!

Every day, Rachel takes the train into the city, pretending to go to work. Every evening, she takes the train back. Unfortunately, the train path goes by where her ex-husband Tom lives with his new wife Anna and their new baby. That certainly does not help her issues with alcohol or stalking.

In her rides, Rachel also fixates on a house down the street. She sees a house with a young couple, who she views as the golden couple. She gives them names - Jess and Jason - and envisions their fairy tale life. Of course, life is not a fairly tale.

One day, Megan, the woman in this golden couple, disappears. Rachel continues her misguided fairly tale and starts to imagine what might have happened and how devastated her husband might be. She also thinks she might have seen something that relates to Megan and may shed light on her disappearance. However, with her alcohol induced blackouts, she is not sure.

Clearly lacking in good judgement, Rachel gets involved. She reports her thoughts to the police and to Megan's husband. She is obviously not a reliable witness. In fact, the more the police research, the more holes they find in her story. The fact that Tom and Anna live on the street and accuse Rachel of stalking further complicates things.

Confused yet? That's pretty much how Rachel feels. The book twists and turns, showing us the events from Rachel, Anna, and Megan's perspectives. What do these three women have in common? Anything at all? Do their stories share a common link beyond the street they live on? What happened the night Megan disappeared? The first sentence of the book reveal what happened to her, but how and why? All these questions keep you reading.

The book really only has five main characters. Rachel is the drunk fixated on her ex-husband. Anna is the new wife, who "got" her husband through an adulterous affair and then moved right into the house Tom shared with Rachel. Megan has plenty of unpleasant secrets of her own, some of which lead to her disappearance. Tom is Rachel's ex-husband and Anna's husband; he is forever trying to placate both. Justin is Megan's husband, distraught at his wife's disappearance but with a few skeletons of his own in the closet. A supporting cast of stereotypes surrounds these main characters. I don't particularly like any of the them, but keep reading because, at the same time, I want to know what happens.

Many books recently have been compared to Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl; this is the first one for me that elicits the same reaction. The characters in both are certainly unlikable. The ending to this book does not have the surprise element of Gone Girl. By process of elimination, I did guess the correct guilty party, but it is a whole lot of fun to see how the book gets there.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.


  1. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, like Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, is a cast of unlikable characters caught up in a story that keeps you reading because you want to know what happens. An woman prone to blackouts, a woman who disappears, a marriage based on adultery, and lots of secrets create the mystery of this book. I did guess the correct guilty party, but it was a whole lot of fun to see how the book got there.

    This was your review on paperbackswap.com, which brought me here. How did you figure out/guess the guilty party? I was hooked on this book, listening to the audiobook in the car to and from work and catching up on the novel reading it at home. Wow! I did not see the end coming!

    1. Don't you love PaperbackSwap! I am like a kid in a candy store, searching through all the books I could request.

      For The Girl on the Train, my guess became a process of elimination. The book has such a limited set of characters - the three women (and one of them is dead) and the three men (the two husbands and the guy on the train). It had to be one of them. For fear of a spoiler, I can't really say how I eliminated some, but it all had to do with how big or how small a role they played in the story line.