Book Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

This debut novel, a psychological thriller, promises twists and turns as the story speeds down the tracks to its conclusion and the mystery and the twists are delivered.  However, by the time the reader gets to the denouement, it is hard to work up the energy to care about what has happened to these truly reprehensible people.

Rachel is divorced, bitter and an alcoholic prone to blackouts and amnesia. She finds herself enmeshed in the disappearance of one of her former neighbors, Megan, who lives several houses down from Rachel’s ex-husband Tom and his new wife, Anna.

Megan is married to Scott, and as Rachel’s train passes her old neighborhood on her way to her non-existent job in the city every morning and evening, she makes up a fairy-tale life for the ‘golden couple’ that she names Jason and Jess in her mind. This legend grows larger as the months pass and Rachel drinks more and more on her way home to her single room.

Tom and Anna have an infant daughter named Evie and Rachel frequently sees Anna and Evie in their (her former) garden as her train rolls by.  Rachel is barren and bitter that Anna now has the life she’d planned for herself. This is the event that caused her to turn to the bottle in order to drink her thoughts away.

Megan disappears shortly after Rachel sees her in the garden with another man and Rachel becomes entangled with Scott as she tries to provide the police with another suspect in Megan’s disappearance. Rachel proves to be an epically unreliable witness.

All of the characters in this novel lie, all of them cheat, and all of them are miserable in their own unique ways.  This story contains so little joy woven into the narrative that picking the book up to continue reading became a chore rather than an escape.  The mysterious twist promised is clever and the last couple of chapters before the epilog are exciting and well-paced, but the overall depression of all of the inhabitants of this neighborhood makes getting to the end difficult at best.

All that said, the book is well-written with very few (if any) grammatical or editorial errors that pull you out of the story.  If you’ve got nothing else to read and don’t mind becoming angry with the characters as you work through the book then go ahead and give it a read.  Otherwise, skip it, there are plenty of well-written books out there (including thrillers with surprise endings) that will not make you wish the characters were never born.


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