Book Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Girl on the TrainSynopsis:

(via Goodreads)

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

My thoughts:

Hmm. The hype machine strikes again. Last year, it seemed like everyone was talking about The Girl On the Train as the next “it” book, with all sorts of comparisons, especially to Gone Girl. So does it measure up?

Not really — but then again, I feel like calling a book the next Gone Girl is just setting readers up for disappointment. Gone Girl was Gone Girl, and this is something different. It does seem like that’s the inevitable point of comparison for every new book that comes along that features an unreliable narrator, but there’s only so many times that concept can remain fresh and exciting.

In any case…

The Girl on the Train is told mainly through the eyes of Rachel, a depressed, out-of-work alcoholic who rides the train every day so that her kind roommate won’t know that she got fired. Rachel’s eyes are drawn every day to a beautiful woman who sits out on her terrace facing the tracks. The woman seems to have a perfect life, with a perfect husband. But Rachel isn’t drawn to the couple only because of the image of happiness that they project; they also happen to live just a few doors down from the home she used to share with her ex-husband Tom, who now lives in that house with his new wife and baby.

Rachel’s life is a mess, and it’s the glimpse into other people’s lives that give her a shred of hope, until one day she spots the woman with another man in a seemingly intimate embrace. Rachel is shocked, and seems to need to inject herself into the story. And when the woman on the terrace becomes a missing person, Rachel can’t stay away, inserting herself into the police investigation and into the life of the husband, who is naturally the leading suspect in what’s looking like a case of foul play.

The relationships and connections are tangled and complicated, and Rachel’s version of events is doubtful from the start. She’s an out-of-control drinker who typically stops only when she passes out. She has blackouts, after which she has no memories. She blames herself for the misery of her own life, but can’t seem to pull herself together enough to change anything. No wonder the police consider her a nut job who just wants the excitement of feeling important… especially since her ex’s new wife has filed complaints against Rachel for her stalker-like behavior.

It took me quite a while to really get into The Girl on the Train. None of the characters are at all likeable, which isn’t necessarily a problem, but I didn’t particularly connect with any of them or feel sympathetic. Even as late as the halfway mark, I was wondering what all the fuss was about. The story is interesting enough, but I didn’t feel like it tipped over into un-put-down-ableness until close to the end.

The last quarter or so is fast-moving and absorbing, and despite having a pretty good idea of the who in the whodunnit, finding out the why and the how was pretty exciting as the big reveals started coming into view.

I did enjoy the book, but there was a samey-same feel to much of the story. I really didn’t get sucked in until close to the end, and stuck with it mainly because of all the hype which made me feel like there would be something amazing coming along any second now. I didn’t think the book ever reached AMAZING, but it was a fun read and kept me busy on a summer weekend.

The Girl on the Train would make a great beach read, or would be a good choice for a long plane ride. It’s a good diversion, not earth-shattering, but still quite a fun way to pass the time.

PS – I am looking forward to the movie version, to be released in the fall. I was going to include the trailer here… but it seems so spoilerific that I decided not to. Check it out at your own peril!


The details:

Title: The Girl on the Train
Author: Paula Hawkins
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Publication date: January 13, 2015
Length: 336 pages
Genre: Adult fiction
Source: Purchased

10 thoughts on “Book Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

  1. I agree a lot on this review. I didn’t think it was anything explosive. It was simply ok. I want the book to have closure because it just ends and the characters don’t really change.

  2. So I’m probably the only person in the world who hasn’t read this book yet and it’s partly because I wasn’t a fan of Gone Girl at all – because of that, a few people have told me that I’ll enjoy this one a lot more! I will read it before the movie comes out (and avoid the movie trailer in the meantime).

    • I thought I was the only person who hadn’t read it, but now that I have… Well, anyway, I’m not sure it follows that if you didn’t enjoy Gone Girl, you’d like this any better. To be honest, in terms of writing and plot, I think Gone Girl is a much better book. I’ll be interested to hear what you think once you read it!

  3. I agree about the characters and how they weren’t likable, but I guess that’s the good part of the book because they seems so realistic with their own flaws and issues. But I was immersed from the start of the book, I really liked how everything was built up. Great review!

  4. I agree with your take on the book. When I finished, I thought, well, just because everyone is reading it doesn’t mean it’s great. The Gone Girl hype was a double-edged sword for this book. Lisa, I so enjoy your blog and reviews. Thanks for doing the work!

    • Thank you so much! This book in particular strikes me as one that everyone reads because they’ve heard that everyone is reading it — but so far, I haven’t talked to many folks who were happy with it. I appreciate your nice comments!

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