The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (2015)
Fiction | Psychological Thriller | Crime & Mystery
“The debut psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people’s lives.
EVERY DAY THE SAME
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?”
pooled ink Review:
This book was…alright.
I kept hearing this book’s title over the past months, especially once it was announced that it would become a movie. I watched the movie trailer and had two thoughts: 1) Emily Blunt! 2) Oooo this looks crazy!
Obviously I was hyped after watching that thrilling trailer and decided I would buy the book and read it before I saw the movie. So I did. And now I’m slightly less inclined to see the movie. (But I’ll probably still go because a) Emily Blunt and b) Ooooo it looks crazy!)
The book technically opens with the murder. Or at least with a paragraph that could very well be someone’s death. That was an exciting way to begin this book.
In the first chapter of this book we are introduced to Rachel, a sad divorced alcoholic who rides the trains every day to and from “work” as she downs yet more alcohol and stares bleary-eyed at the houses along the tracks. She watches a particular couple every morning, gives them names, makes up lives for them, and generally imagines their perfect life as her head swims intoxicated. A few houses down from this perfect couple’s house just so happens to be her ex-husband’s house, her house. It’s usually once the train passes this particular phase of her past that she opens another can of some pre-mixed drink or other.
Here, I’ll go ahead and give you the low down on Rachel’s very unfortunate life. (No spoilers, just facts revealed within the first few chapters)
Rachel became very depressed and slowly turned to alcohol. Rachel’s husband Tom was having an affair with a woman named Anna and Tom left Rachel to marry Anna who happened to be pregnant with Tom’s child. Rachel spiraled further into her depression and alcoholism. Tom and Anna hired a woman named Megan (the woman from the “perfect couple” who Rachel watches from the trains) to babysit their daughter Evie, but Megan only lasts for a short while before she quits. Megan’s husband, Scott, loves Megan but Megan has some buried issues so she begins seeing a therapist and also has an affair with Tom and possibly her therapist. One Saturday Rachel becomes so drunk she’s blacked out but she vaguely remembers taking the train to where Tom lives and she sees blood and bruises on her body when she wakes up the next day. She finds out that Megan has gone missing.
And really that’s all you need to know…except for the “Who dunnit?” part of course.
The rest of the book travels up and down the rails following Rachel’s cyclic battle with alcoholism and her obsession with solving Megan’s case as she continues to tangle her life with those linked to Megan, get incredibly drunk, make embarrassing not-great decisions, realizes what she’s done, decides not to drink for half a second and then downs a bottle to drown out her embarrassment and misery only to make more poor decisions. It became wearing to read about it for so many pages. Alcoholism is a real problem, I know that, and I also know that I don’t sound very sympathetic, but that’s why I didn’t go to school to become a therapist.
Megan has issues and does not deal with them healthily and the effects of her issues and her not dealing with them lead to her disappearance.
The book attempts to bounce suspicion between Scott, the husband, Abdic, the therapist, and briefly Rachel, the alcoholic. However I not once really felt that Rachel did it. I just didn’t buy that scenario, honestly. It seemed too flimsy. Abdic seemed incredibly unlikely to me but that could have been a rouse to deflect suspicion of course. Scott I felt could have done it. And even Tom could have done it. It could also have been Anna assuming she found out about the affair. It really came down to the two most common suspects in my opinion: the husband and the lover. Of course, being a “psychological thriller” we are meant to doubt the likeliest suspects and suspect the least likely only to have the tables turned again and again. Except that didn’t really happen. The whole book was pretty consistent…and boring. And the killer? It was obvious. I bet you can guess who it was. And the why? It’s pretty easy to guess as well, at least part of it.
It’s not a very long book…but it felt long. It felt like the same stuff over and over again. There was nothing exhilarating, surprising, jolting, unnerving. I felt none of it. The only part I enjoyed was the ending of the book when characters starting changing, clues started showing, and all the little lines began meeting to reveal what happened that Saturday night when Megan went missing.
(I will say that I finally begin to like Rachel towards the end of the book…but I mean, the end.)
This story is marketed as a psychological thriller and while the movie may achieve this I did not get any thrill, psychological or otherwise, with this book. It was slow, it was dull, and it was disappointing.
There was some stuff towards the end that started coming to light that was exciting and a touch surprising…but not enough to warrant reading the whole book. I’d rather just watch the movie next time.
Obviously loads of people love this book or it wouldn’t be having the success it has…I’m just sorry that I can’t join them in the rave. I will say that the author is a good writer technically, it just didn’t work for me this time, sorry.
All in all this book is filled with sad people with messed up lives making stupid decisions that only work to further ruin their lives. I was tired of reading about it. I just kept waiting for someone to do something worth applauding, but that didn’t come until the very end.
Psychological thriller? I think not. The Girl on the Train is a dull commute that only succeeded in making me snooze as I let the gentle rocking of the train lull me into a stupor. Definitely a story better executed as a movie than a book.
P.S. If you’re looking for a murder mystery related to trains then try Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express.
Purchase here: The Girl on the Train
Meet Paula Hawkins!
Paula Hawkins worked as a journalist for fifteen years before turning her hand to fiction.
Born and brought up in Zimbabwe, Paula moved to London in 1989 and has lived there ever since. The Girl on the Train is her first thriller.