Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning, flashing past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stopping at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. Their life, as she sees it, is perfect ... until she sees something shocking. It's only a minute until the train moves on, but now everything is changed. Rachel goes to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?
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Paula Hawkins has written the first big breakout novel of 2015. It's been compared, over and over, to Gone Girl, which is mainly due, as far as I can tell, to being an entertaining, page-turning psychological thriller that the publishers hope will sell just as well. It is those things. Otherwise, there's no connection to Gillian Flynn's novel.
The Girl on the Train is narrated by three women; Rachel, herself, desperately unhappy and hanging together by the thinnest thread, she's still the linchpin of the novel as she tries to put the pieces back together into some sort of coherent narrative. Then there's Megan, the woman she watches so closely and whose disappearance is the central mystery of the novel. She's not as happy as she appears to be. And, finally, there's Anna, the new wife, who feels menaced by Rachel's constant appearance on their quiet street. She's got a family she loves and she won't let Rachel hurt it.
Overall, I enjoyed this suspenseful novel. While Megan and Rachel's voices and the way they experience the world are so similar, it's hard to tell them apart, each chapter is clearly marked with who is speaking and when that chapter takes place, so that the reader can follow the story as it jumps from narrator to narrator and through time. The Girl on the Train has the feel of a debut novel and there are missteps along the way, but it's a fun book with an ending that doesn't feel like a cheat. I look forward to seeing what Hawkins writes next as this novel showed promise.
I would have abandoned the entire book 60 pages in but since it was my book club selection I had to persevere. I had it figured out very quickly and it really didn't hold my interest.
I won’t go into plot details in any depth
The Girl on the Train is a highly readable thriller and the fact that this is the author’s debut book is astonishing. Her ingenious take on the daily commute is original, the shifting perspectives keep the reader glued to the page and her skillful writing draws one into the story. I certainly don’t want to hang out with these characters, but they make for a very interesting read.
The second reason readers may feel disappointment upon finishing The Girl on the Train is the fact that it is predictable. There are a few twists, but deft readers will be able to spot the diversions within them. Then there is the big reveal that is less surprise and more confirmation that one was on the right path towards solving the mystery. The fact that most readers will be able to predict at least one or two of the major plot twists underpins the thriller elements and prevents the story from becoming extraordinary.
What saves the story from becoming just another unreliable narrator suspense is the depth of emotion throughout the story. One may not like her behavior towards her ex-husband, but there is no denying the girl has many issues, of which her alcoholism is just one facet. The underlying causes of her alcoholism are heart-breaking, and her inability to articulate her issues to her loved ones makes the entire situation worse. One wants Rachel to recover and regain control over her life, feels frustration with every relapse and joy with every step in the right direction. Megan is similarly damaged, evoking comparable feelings of empathy in readers. Together, these ladies carry the emotional heart of the novel and of the readers.
While it is easy to thoroughly enjoy the action and the thrills of The Girl on the Train, it is ultimately one of those novels that can never live up to the generated hype. Readers looking for the next big mind-blowing novel are only going to experience disappointment. This does not mean it is a terrible novel; in fact, it is anything but that. It is just not the type of novel that will leave readers speechless and anxious to discuss it with strangers on the street.
• I am in the minority on this book as this storyline did not work well for me. This book has been at the top of best seller lists since publication.
• According to the book blurb this book should have been right up my alley as I tend to like unreliable narrators as they keep
• My main complaint is the main character Rachel – she is a depressive drunk (she has her reasons) that just annoyed me to the point that I was rolling my eyes for most of her scenes after awhile.
• There were three first person narrators that alternated during the course of the book – first it was mainly Rachel, then Megan (who Rachel imagined lived life as part of a perfect loving couple), and then Anna (who is now married to Rachel’s ex-husband). So the reader learns things that the other characters do not know about each other when a specific character is narrating. This worked for me though at times I think what the characters revealed was a convenient plot ploy.
• About half way through the book, as the story takes some twists and turns I think there are enough clues for the reader to figure out what happened. So no real surprises for me after this point.
• Some interesting themes run throughout the book – adultery, deception (probably one of the most interesting) and how the train meant different things to the three women.
• Overall I found the storyline slow going and I did not feel the suspense and anticipation I usually do with a psychological thriller.
• If I had a tag line for this book – it is stalled in the station.
Or has she? The story moves back and forth in time, narrated alternately by each of the three women. I am intentionally avoiding any mention of the central storyline. Suffice to say it’s a thriller about a missing person. Each chapter offers up tiny details but omits others, keeping the reader guessing. Gradually it becomes apparent that not only is the messed up, alcoholic Rachel an unreliable narrator, but so are Megan and Anna. And the men don’t exactly redeem themselves, either.
The novel moves along at a clip. I zipped through it in two days, and was grateful to have another reader at home with whom I could hash out the story. With the exception of one obvious device and a few coincidences, it’s a good story with plenty of suspense.
Rachel rides the train to London every day, keeping up the pretense that she she still has a job and a place to be. In fact she doesn't - her alcoholism has cost much - her husband, her job and her home. Adding salt to her
The Girl on the Train is told from three different viewpoints - that of Rachel, the missing woman and Rachel's ex-husband's new wife.
But it is Rachel driving the story - and she is a deliciously unreliable narrator. She drinks to blackout and often cannot remember where she has been or what she has done. But the flashes of clarity she does have frighten her...
"Something happened, I know it did. I can't picture it, but I can feel it. I'm frightened, but I'm not sure what I'm afraid of, which just exacerbates the fear."
The missing woman also tells her story, leading up to the day she disappears. She too is an unreliable narrator, concealing her past and lying about her present.
Hawkins keeps the reader guessing as the story twists and turns, changing with every revelation, memory and action. Who is telling the truth? What did really happen? I had my suspicions as the number of pages left to read dwindled and literally couldn't put the book down until I finished. (Pick a nice lazy day to start The Girl on the Train - you won't want to do anything else)
Hawkins' depiction of alcoholism is troubling but highly effective as a plot device. I've also traveled by rail and was easily able to put myself in a seat looking out - wondering about someone else's life.
The Girl on the Train is a great psychological thriller and is absolutely recommended. Dreamworks Studio has also optioned the movie rights
I had actually been a little reluctant to read this book
The book takes the form of alternating narratives from Rachel, an alcoholic divorcee who regularly commutes from Hertfordshire into London on a route that passes the house where she previously li9ved with her ex-husband. She becomes intrigued by the house just four along from her old home, which she comes to observe on a regular basis as her train is invariably brought to a halt at the foot of its garden. Seeing the occupants (who had arrived since she lived in that street) she starts to imagine their life, even assigning them names and speculating about their respective jobs. Rachel is not a happy person, and as her narrative proceeds we gain an alarming insight into her lifestyle which is not as it initially seems.
Interspersed with Rachel's story we are offered Megan's narrative, which starts about a year earlier than Rachel's. Megan lives in the house that Rachel observes almost every day, but the story that she unwinds reveals a very different life from that which Rachel had imagined for her.
The portrayal of a personality unwinding, and the events that unfold as a consequence is fascinating. Hawkins combines very sharp observation with immense suspense, producing a heady and addictive brew. Having started the book I found it very difficult to put it down.
Told through the eyes of one of the best unreliable narrators ever, this mystery is a page turner. I didn't necessarily love the main character, but I desperately wanted to know what happened. I had several suspects and with each twist I would change my mind. It's him! No, it's not. Her! Nope, back to him. Not him; how about the other guy? How well do you know the people in your life? How much can you trust a stranger? Definitely a good read.
The premise of "The Girl on the Train" is intriguing: Every day Rachel takes the train into London. Every day the train passes a house where a married couple live, and every day Rachel observes them in their daily life as the train passes by. But one day when the train passes by the couple's house, Rachel sees something out of the ordinary. When she decides to take action, she gets herself into one heck of a mess.
Rachel makes bad decisions. Very bad decisions. And it made me cringe every time she did something stupid that she shouldn't have. I wanted to shake her and yell at her to stop. How frustrated she made me was part of what made me ambivalent in how I was going to rate the book. I had to consciously separate my dislike of Rachel from how I felt about the book. By the time I finished the book - and I could not put it down for that last 1/3 when everything was coming to a head - author Paula Hawkins had convinced me that I really liked it. So I took the average of the 3, 4, and 5 stars that I wanted to give the book as I was reading along; final verdict? A solid 4 stars.
Alas, not so this summer with this novel of psychological suspense. What began as promising interwoven storylines about three women settled into a rut of: ride the
After I saw it
Having read it now, the short version is that it is really nothing like "Rear Window", but it also wasn't that much of a thriller and the mystery element was also somewhat reduced (despite a few red herrings, the Roger Ebert "Law of the Economy of Characters" from the film world did carry over into the writing world).
If you are unsure about this novel, you can probably sample the style in the library or bookstore just from the first 10 or 20 pages or so. The suspense doesn't really change much for about 260 pages (out of a total 320 pages in my edition). So if it isn't grabbing you right from the get-go, then you are probably in for a pretty slow crawl until the twist comes.
I've seen a lot of references to "Gone Girl" in the publicity and other reviews, but I was completely swept along by "Gone Girl" and was so engrossed with switching constantly from Team Amy to Team Nick and back again. In "The Girl on the Train" I didn't find any characters to identify with or root for. All of them were unappealing and the erstwhile heroine Rachel is painted in the most unsympathetic light possible by being a messy drunk all the way through. You root for characters like Lawrence Block's Matt Scudder who are fighting their alcoholism but if a character is just wallowing in it there is no character arc or journey to root for.
This is just me. There are some very polarized views about this book, so you just have to decide which one is yours and be that.
In my rating system, 3.5 stars is right in the middle of solid and enjoyable and very good. That seems about right.