The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

the-girl-on-the-train-paula-hawkins-book-coverThe debut psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people’s lives.

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 head leaning against the carriage window, I watch these houses roll past me like a tracking shot in a film. I see them as others do not; even their owners probably don’t see them from this perspective. Twice a day, I am offered a view into other lives, just for a moment. There’s something comforting about the sight of strangers safe at home.”

The Girl on the Train is intriguing from page one. You are immediately drawn into the characters lives and are then slowly drawn into the central mystery at which point it becomes increasingly difficult to put the book down. Events unfold slowly, so that you never know the full story about anything or anyone until the end, compelling you to keep reading.

This was my first time reading a thriller, and while I don’t know how many more I’ll read, I definitely understand the appeal. They force you to think and creep you out in a way that shifts your perspective on people and the world. The Girl on the Train is successful for a few reasons: first, it is practically impossible to guess the ending; second, it taps into our desire to know the lives of other people while at the same time reminding us that we can never really know anyone. Rather, we tend to see what we want, or need, to see. Girl on the Train also asks you to question what your moral responsibility is towards telling the truth. How far should we go to help others especially when we can never be sure of what we saw?

There are three POVs in Girl on the Train, each with their own perspectives on the events that take place. You are certainly led to question Rachel’s reliability as a narrator, but it’s interesting how Megan and Anna are also framed as being unreliable in the sense that they, like all narrators, see the world filtered through their own biases. It was especially interesting to see what each character thought about the others, to see how their prejudices influence how they interpret people and events. In addition, the characters whose voices we hear are all women; we never get the perspectives of the male characters. Just like each character never has access to the full story, neither do you.

While their stories are interesting on their own, the central mystery and the need to know what’s going to happen next is the real driving force that keeps you reading. When you finally find out what’s going on at the end, everything clicks into place in a very satisfying way. It’s worthwhile to go back and re-read sections of the novel (or even the whole thing) to see how parts of the story can be interpreted differently now that you know the truth. It highlights just how well-written and carefully crafted the story is.

Recommended to fans of thrillers or those wishing to try one for the first time


4 thoughts on “The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

  1. Awesome review! I absolutely adore thrillers, yet I haven’t gotten around to reading this yet. The last one that I read and absolutely loved was The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware…definitely another one worth the read if you find yourself wanting another amazing thriller!

  2. I read this maybe 18 months ago and enjoyed it. It was a perfect night time read, not too taxing for tired brain cells but engaging and intriguing enough to make it a page turner. The thing that hooked me in was the idea of imagining the lives of people we casually and incidentally observe as that’s something I used to do when commuting too.

    1. It’s cool that you were able to connect to the story like that! I liked how it went beyond trying to just thrill you and really provided a window into the lives of other people and explored the ways we view others and ourselves. I’ve always been curious about other people which is part of the reason I’m studying psychology, so I enjoyed how it really took you inside the heads of the characters and made you curious about their lives.

I love hearing from you and will always reply!

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