The Girl on the Train

by Paula Hawkins

Hardcover, 2015

Call number





Riverhead Books (2015), 336 pages


Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. 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 offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

Media reviews

"...a building, inescapable tension that Hawkins handles superbly, nibbling away at Rachel’s memories until we, like our sardonic, bitterly honest narrator, aren’t really sure we want to know what happened at all."
2 more
“The Girl on the Train” has more fun with unreliable narration than any chiller since “Gone Girl,” the book still entrenched on best-seller lists two and a half years after publication because nothing better has come along. “The Girl on the Train” has “Gone Girl”-type fun with
Show More
unreliable spouses, too. Its author, Paula Hawkins, isn’t as clever or swift as Gillian Flynn, the author of “Gone Girl,” but she’s no slouch when it comes to trickery or malice. So “The Girl on the Train” is liable to draw a large, bedazzled readership too
Show Less
Readers sometimes conflate the “likability” of characters with a compulsion to care about their fate, but with a protagonist so determined to behave illogically, self-destructively and frankly narcissistically (someone even refers to her as “Nancy Drew”), it’s tough to root for Rachel.
Show More
She’s like the clueless heroine of a slasher film who opts to enter the decrepit, boarded-up house where all her friends have been murdered because she hears a mysterious sound through an upstairs window
Show Less

Library's review

This novel is described as psychological fiction. Not quite a "thriller', but close. The focus is on a small set of characters, all suffering and damaged in some way. The chapters alternate in first person narrative between these main characters, moving back and forth in time, the two time points
Show More
getting closer and closer and converging at the end. The setting, in part taking place on a suburban London train line, is nicely crafted and integrated with the inner, psychological world. It's an easy read, and a fun one: not surprising they've made it into a movie. (Brian)
Show Less

User reviews

LibraryThing member RidgewayGirl
The Girl on the Train is Rachel, an unemployed, newly divorced woman with a serious drinking problem. Traveling to London every day on the train, she passes the back of her old house, now filled with her ex-husband's new wife and baby. But what fascinates her are the inhabitants a few doors down, a
Show More
young couple who are clearly so in love and happy.

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.
Show Less
LibraryThing member cyderry
I won't even begin to try to tell the tale of this depressing, dragged out tale of murder and alcoholism.

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.

Show More
figure out what the big hoopla was all about but I can tell you that I won't be going to see the movie when it's made.
Show Less
LibraryThing member DeltaQueen50
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins definitely took me on quite the ride. This was not an easy book to put down, the twists and turns kept the pages turning, but I was pretty much able to keep up with the author and so wasn’t surprised at the ending.

I won’t go into plot details in any depth
Show More
as so much has been written about this book already. It’s a great character study of a group of dis-likeable, damaged people. I started the book with a certain amount of sympathy for Rachel, but, as with all drunks, she started to wear on me and I lost patience with her. As the layers kept getting peeled back and more and more of their lives were revealed, the reader becomes aware that no one in this book can be trusted, all are unreliable narrators. An alcoholic, a pathological liar, a cheat and homewrecker, a controlling and abusive husband, that only leaves the victim and she was a total mess! However, none of this took away from my enjoyment of the book, the author was in control of the whole proceeding and guided the story along at a great pace.

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.
Show Less
LibraryThing member jmchshannon
There are two main reasons why readers will enjoy The Girl on the Train but not love or rave about it. For one thing, the female characters are perfect examples of common feminine tropes. First, there is the woman who views all other women as competition. Her life revolves around turning the heads
Show More
of men and being the most desirable woman in any given room. Then there is the woman who loses herself to her man. She accepts disturbing behavior from her husband as perfectly normal, even while her therapist cautions her against the dangers of such behavior. Finally, there is the woman who falls into the pit of depression upon her divorce and still calls her ex-husband to beg to get together again several years later. None are shining examples of women, and they only serve to highlight the tension that underpins many a female relationship.

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.
Show Less
LibraryThing member bookmuse56
My thoughts:
• 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
Show More
storylines interesting, words like Hitchcockian thriller had me making sure that I would be undisturbed while reading, and the concept of Rachel envisioning the lives of others while riding the train was understandable as for many years I commuted to work via trains.
• 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.
Show Less
LibraryThing member flourgirl49
Rachel, the main character of this book, spends a LOT of time on the train - I mean, really excessively. The rest of her time is spent drinking, suffering blackouts and hangovers, and harassing her ex-husband and his new wife. There are three female narrators of this story, and their tales are so
Show More
similar in some respects that you sometimes forget who is talking. There is a disappearance which turns into a murder, and by the time it is solved, I was kind of bored with the whole thing. This book has gotten rave reviews, not deserved in my opinion.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Twink
The Girl on the Train is Paula Hawkin's debut novel. And oh, what a debut!!

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
Show More
wounds is the fact that the train makes at the station by her old neighbourhood. Twice a day, Rachel passes by this row of houses by the station. She often sees a couple she has named Jess and Jason in their garden and has created a fairy tale life for them - one she imagines she might have had. Then one day she sees Jess kissing someone else. And then she sees on the news that the woman she calls Jess is missing. Rachel takes her information to the police - but can't leave it be and she slowly insinuates herself into the investigation.....

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
Show Less
LibraryThing member lauralkeet
On her daily London commute Rachel, the eponymous girl, watches the people living in houses along the route. Or, more to the point, she’s kind of obsessed with one specific house and the couple living in it. She invents their back story, and one day sees something so compelling she feels she has
Show More
to act on it and insert herself into their lives. It turns out the couple, Megan and Scott, live just down the street from Rachel’s ex, Tom, his wife, Anna, and their baby daughter. And something is definitely not right, but Rachel may not have interpreted events correctly, either.

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.
Show Less
LibraryThing member laura.w.douglas
Wow! Just wow! I greatly enjoyed reading this book; it was not like any other book I've ever read. I read that it was similar to gone girl, but only slightly. I would highly recommend this book!
LibraryThing member icolford
The Girl on the Train possesses all the qualities we expect from a good suspense novel: a sympathetic if seriously flawed protagonist, plenty of surprises and plot twists, a compelling mystery, and some good old-fashioned drama. Rachel Watson has hit bottom. Her drinking has ended her marriage to
Show More
Tom and got her fired from her job, and she’s living in a rented room in her long-suffering friend Cathy’s house. She hasn’t told Cathy about losing her job, and so to keep up the pretense of working she dutifully boards a commuter train each morning and rides into Euston, where she spends the day in coffee shops and the public library and wandering around the town avoiding people she used to work with. As it happens, the train takes her past the house where she previously lived and where Tom is now living with his new wife Anna. A few houses down from Tom and Anna are a young couple that Rachel doesn’t know whom she names Jess and Jason. With little but guilt and regret to occupy her thoughts, Rachel watches this couple and allows her imagination to conjure up an ideal life for them, a life assembled from voyeuristic daydreams and the tiny snippets of real life she witnesses from the train each morning and evening. Then one day she sees something from her seat on the train that shatters the illusion she has built and compels her—ill-advisedly and impulsively—to insert herself into the lives of people who, despite her imaginings, are strangers to her. Rachel knows she is intruding where she doesn’t belong and where nothing that happens is any of her business, but her state of mind is so fragile that she convinces herself it’s the right thing to do. She blunders forward, telling one lie after another, humiliating herself in front of people who matter to her, falling off the wagon time and again, and getting tangled up in a tale of disappearance, murder and illicit love where no one and nothing can be trusted, least of all her own booze-addled memories. Paula Hawkins has written a remarkable story in which everyone behaves badly and none of the characters is particularly likeable. But the story she’s telling draws us in so completely and holds us in such a firm grip that once you start reading you have no choice but to continue to the end. The novel is well paced, written with attention to detail and with little in the way of padding. In the end, an unlikely alliance springs up and the fate of those left standing rests on the ability to come up with a good lie and tell it in convincing fashion. The Girl on the Train is not a story that will restore your faith in humanity, but for entertainment value it’s hard to beat.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Clara53
A compelling, haunting thriller, so different from other kinds of thrillers, like spy or political ones, the ones I am more prone to pick up... Poignancy is at its sharpest here, human folly laid bare at its ugliest. Unpredictable events are told, in turn, by three young women, (the main three
Show More
protagonists), and at times, their actions and thoughts did sound a little immature, but all in all, a captivating thriller.
Show Less
LibraryThing member hubblegal
Through most of this book, I thought "wow, this is a 5 star book for me" as I really enjoyed the fast-paced story. But at some point, I could see the end coming and the last fourth of the book fell a bit flat for me. All in all, it was a fun read and I'd recommend it to anyone looking for an
Show More
entertaining bit of diversion.
Show Less
LibraryThing member jayne_charles
Wow what a brilliant book. I can't believe any film would live up to the quality of the writing. Here is proof that a repetitive narrative and a simple plot can be massively compelling. It kept me reading feverishly during a power cut and I didn't care whether the power came back on or not. The
Show More
author's crisp prose is spot on throughout. One of my reads of the year for sure.
Show Less
LibraryThing member littlel
It was painfully hard to read and I gave up halfway. The characters are shallow caricatures: annoying and stereotypical. It lacks a sensible, deep plot and the action flounders into melodrama halfway through. I've read other reviews saying the ending is terrible, and at this point I'd rather save
Show More
my very limited reading time for something well written, with decent plot driven characters and excellent writing.
Show Less
LibraryThing member john257hopper
I found this novel rather disappointing after a strong start. Its initial promise as a Rear Window type mystery declined into a soap opera where the leading characters (most of them pretty unpleasant) all seem to be, or have been, in physically and/or emotionally destructive relationships with each
Show More
other. Thus the central character Rachel is by no means the disinterested and independent-minded outsider she initially seems to be. She is also, for the majority of the novel, a deeply irritating character for whom I felt little sympathy until the dramatic and slightly confusing denouement. So overall a disappointment.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Robert3167
This is a twist on the amateur detective genre with the person trying to make sense of it all is an alcoholic who has frequent blackouts. This affects her interaction with all the people who she comes in contact with. Rachel travels by train into London each day and during these trips the train
Show More
stops or slows near a group of houses that back onto the rail line. Rachel creates stories about the people she sees in these houses and back yards. When a woman goes missing from the very house Rachel has fixated on, her initial reaction to what she saw that day is coloured by her drinking. Did it happen or did she imagine it, what does it mean?
The chapters are told from the perspective of the key protagonists in the mystery. You need to pay attention to this early another wise you will be extremely confused as to whose point of view you are witnessing.

There are twists and turns as your opinion of who did it changes with each new revelation.
Thoroughly enjoyable book.
Show Less
LibraryThing member katiekrug
I am not sure how I feel about this one. It started off very slowly for me but eventually became quite a page-turner. The problem was that I can't tell if the central premise was clever or kind of a cop-out. Without giving too much away, the book concerns the disappearance of a young woman and how
Show More
another woman becomes obsessed with it. But she is an alcoholic and has major blackouts so are her impressions and fragmented memories real? Or is she just an "unreliable witness," as the police label her? Some of the plot stretches plausibility, but it was such a compelling read that Hawkins must have done something right.

In my rating system, 3.5 stars is right in the middle of solid and enjoyable and very good. That seems about right.
Show Less
LibraryThing member vnesting
Boy, talk about your unreliable narrators! Rachel rides the train every day to and from London and over time she imagines lives for a couple she frequently sees on her journey. Then one day she sees the woman with another man and the next day she learns that the woman is missing, feared dead. Can
Show More
Rachel help the investigation or hinder it by telling authorities what she saw -- or thought she saw? While Rachel is the primary narrator, there are two others. Even if you don't particularly like any of them, the story draws you in and keep you turning the pages faster and faster as you try to figure out what really happened.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Susan.Macura
This is a well-written tale of what happened to Megan through the eyes of Rachel, the girl on the train. Poor Rachel is a woman who was happily married, or so she thought, who tried desperately to get pregnant, and when she could not, turned to alcohol to assuage her feelings. From there her life
Show More
spiraled out of control, leaving her commuting on the morning and evening train, pretending to go to and from work. It is there that the action begins, and the twists and turns make this a great read. Told from the views of the three women involved in the tale, it is definitely an adventure!
Show Less
LibraryThing member Eyejaybee
Some books are very easy to review, and this is one of them. 'The Girl on The Train' is simply excellent. Immediately engaging and gripping, with a carefully constructed plot and readily believable (and even recognisable) characters.

I had actually been a little reluctant to read this book
Show More
following the immense hype that has surrounded its huge success on both sides of the Atlantic, and because a lot of people had compared it to Gillian Flynn's 'Gone Girl', which I had not liked at all. In the end, I relented simply because I was on holiday and saw it on offer at a very cheap price and decided to give it a go. That was certainly a fortuitous decision.

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.
Show Less
LibraryThing member bookishtexpat
I thought "The Girl on the Train" was a fantastic read and suspenseful story. I enjoyed the way Hawkins wrote, breaking up the story into character, date, and time. It added an extra layer of setting and context to the plot. The only reason I'm not giving it 5 stars is because none of the
Show More
characters were particularly likable, though I also don't think Hawkins meant for any of them to be the hero/good guy.
Looking for a quick but quality read? Definitely pick up "The Girl on the Train."
Show Less
LibraryThing member briandarvell
Fun and quick read. Not a typical type of book I read but it's good to change things up sometimes. I enjoyed the "diary" style the story was told in. Would have been better in my opinion if the characters had a bit more depth to them. Would recommend as a decent mystery/thriller story.
LibraryThing member bereanna
A depressed woman creates stories for the people she sees as she passes their homes while on the train. One couple in particular she fantasizes about having a perfect, loving marriage until she sees the woman kissing another man. The news reports the woman missing and the train-rider gets involved
Show More
in her case. A surprise ending brings understanding to the main character...and the reader. This book made me feel as though I was going through her depression and drinking. Very good writing, but a little on the miserable side, despite the fact that I read like crazy to see what would happen.
Show Less
LibraryThing member niaomiya
Well, appropriately enough, this book read like a train - started off at a moderate speed and then got faster and faster. The book is told from the viewpoints of three different women, whose lives are intertwined. I started off thinking I would give the book 3 stars, since I so disliked the main
Show More
character Rachel, who does all the narrating at first. Then as the story went along, I was thinking I would give the book 4 stars, because I could better understand how Rachel's irritating personality fit into the plot. And then through the last 1/3 or so of the book, I upped my stars to 5, because as much as I continued to dislike Rachel, I started to develop sympathy for her. And it wasn't just Rachel. The other main women in the story, Anna and Megan - the other narrators - aren't all that likable either, but as with Rachel, I developed some sympathy for them later on in the book. And everything fit into the conclusion.

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.
Show Less
LibraryThing member alanteder
I had noticed "The Girl on the Train" in bookstores earlier this year, but having read the back cover promo it sounded like it was going to be something like the Hitchcock film "Rear Window" but done from a train. That didn't really intrigue me that much, so I let it go at the time.
After I saw it
Show More
appearing on many "Best of 2015" lists (e.g. Goodreads Choice Awards Best Mystery & Thriller 2015, The Guardian Best Mysteries/Thrillers of 2015, etc.) I thought I would still give it a go.
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.
Show Less


1594633665 / 9781594633669
Page: 0.9058 seconds