The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
This is Paula Hawkin’s first novel. It debuted on January 13, 2015 and is, as of this post (two weeks later), No. 2 on USA TODAY’s Best-Selling Books list.
“Maybe it was then. Maybe that was the moment when things started to go wrong, the moment when I imagined us no longer a couple, but a family; and after that, once I had that picture in my head, just the two of us could never be enough.”
Through several different points of view and many twists and turns, The Girl on the Train encompasses a sinister plot, a deadly romance, and the darkness in a seemingly peaceful domestic life. Rachel, one of the main characters, is an obese, twenty-eight-year-old who has been divorced for two years, yet still dreams of the married life she left behind. On her lonely train ride home each day, she passes a young couple, upon whom she paints an imaginary life of domestic bliss. But one evening, she sees something from the train window that sets her on a tangled and distraught path. She goes to the police with her story and becomes wrapped up in an investigation. But will she do more harm than good?
“It gives me a little frisson even now, walking past that house – butterflies suddenly swarm in my stomach, and a smile comes to my lips and colour to my cheeks.”
Writing Style: Hawkins’ writing style is the best part of this book! It was very readable while also being complex enough to keep me entertained. As soon as I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. It demanded to be read, compelled me to keep going, sentence after sentence, until I found myself at the end. Yet still the novel was nicely paced and didn’t seem rushed despite the continual forward movement.
Character: The characters in this novel were both real and relatable. Every character had a depth of personality and wasn’t merely two-dimensional. Not only that, the characters were so real that they left an impression and gave me insight into my own character. The imagination and precision that went into the characters in this novel was astounding. (If the characters in my still-in-the-works novel turned out half as good as these, I would be beyond happy.)
“At night when I lie awake I can hear it, quiet but unrelenting, undeniable: a whisper in my head, Slip away.”
Suspense: I appreciated the ability of the author to create such a tangle of suspicion that it left me completely in doubt as to who the true criminal was. (Although, I – typically, unless the novel is completely simple and sub-par – tend to go along with the narrator in her quest for knowledge. This allows me to be just as surprised as she is, though it takes out the fun of pretending to be the detective.) But in this particular novel, I was able to do both – though there are probably those more skilled or paranoid than I am who figured out the culprit. But I can gladly say that I was both surprised and intrigued by the ending.
Everyday Life: I like that this book took something incredibly simple and every-day (a train ride home from the city) and used it to incorporate a complicated and sinister plot.
The author goes into some detail about ordinary life: the people Rachel seems from the train in their domestic environments. And it’s touched on in such a way that it makes me feel as though, by not paying attention on my bus ride home, I’m missing something tangible in life. I might miss an entire story by just reading a book or surfing through Facebook instead of staring out the window at the houses and people that pass by.
“It’s not until I get home that I realize I cut my hand when I fell, and at some point I must have rubbed my hand across my mouth. My lips are smeared with blood.”
Character Differences: Rachel and “Jess” do have some similar personality traits, vices, and expectations, yet they are also fundamentally different people, with different needs, values, and complications. Yet the two different points of view often seemed too similar in thought (and writing style) that, if I hadn’t had the name at the beginning of the chapter to go by, I wouldn’t have known which character was which. [ For instance, Rachel is incredibly needy and obsessive throughout the novel. “Jess” on the other hand, seems to be more aloof and independent, but seems to slip into a neediness that mirrors Rachel’s, without reason. ]
“It’s a dream, I think. I keep trying to grasp at it, to hold on to it, but the harder I struggle, the fainter and the further away it gets.”
Introduction to “Jess” and “Jason”: I felt as though the beginning introduction to Jess and Jason wasn’t quite long enough for me to feel as acutely that sense of loss that Rachel experiences at the end of the novel, when her entire world has fallen over onto itself. I felt her disappointment, but I couldn’t quite share it with her.
This book has very mature themes and some graphic content, including both sexual and violent. Read at your own risk.
All in all, few dislikes! I adored this novel. I started reading it late into the evening, and literally could not put it down until I had finished it (which ended up being some four or five hours later in the early hours of the morning). I feel no shame! Haha, but seriously, this book (as most, if not all, of the previous book reviews have certainly mentioned) is definitely worth your time. (Trust me, you won’t need much time on this one. It’s a fast and thrilling read.) I was locked into the character’s lives as resolutely as if they had been my close friends.
Thanks for reading!
What were your thoughts on the book? Were you surprised by the ending?
May your life have many creased pages,