Review: ‘The Girl on the Train’ by Paula Hawkins
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
When I first read about this book’s premise, I knew I had to read it. Not to sound like too much of a creeper but who doesn’t love a bit of people watching? When you catch the same train, run the same route or visit the same coffee shop every day, it’s hard not to imagine that you know the people that you see on a daily basis or to *maybe* make up your own ideas about what they’re like. The Girl on the Train takes that idea and twists it into something sinister.
I think that Rachel is someone you can either really feel for or someone you hate. Personally, I couldn’t help but sympathise with her. She’s tragic in so many ways and utterly infuriating but my heart broke for her. I can see why she might irritate some readers and I had my moments of frustration but overall, I just felt an immeasurable amount of pity for her. What really sold her to me, though, was how damn unreliable she was. If there’s one thing that I love, it’s a narrator you can’t ever quite believe. As far as mysteries and thrillers go, there is nothing that builds tension quite like reading half a story. Rachel’s existence is shrouded in lies, black-outs and doubt. Her confusion is believable and isn’t half as difficult to rationalise as narrators that have memory problems, for example, so Hawkins doesn’t have to rely on a loosely described brain disorder or frustrate readers with slightly inconsistent explanations about the narrator’s flaky powers of recall. It just fits.
The other characters I was less sure about. There were some that were compelling and some that made me want to punch something. I loved the revelations about ‘Jason and Jess’, the couple that Rachel sees from the train, but I was much less convinced about others. Obviously pinning your life’s happiness on strangers that you’ve never met is a questionable life choice but the process by which Rachel learns so much more about her ‘happy couple’ ideal is somehow still quite sobering. There are a few things that make this a novel for the 21st century but I think Rachel’s need to connect at any cost is one of them.
The Girl on the Train is a book made for devouring in chunks. Not because there are gaping plot holes that should be skimmed over but because in many ways you won’t be able to help it. I won’t pretend that it’s perfect but it’s really, really good. I didn’t see the ending coming (although to be fair I never do). I thought it was spot on and I don’t think there’s really much more you can say for a book in this genre.