Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Girl on the Train

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

The Girl on the Train is told through the unreliable narration of three women. Rachel, who we meet first, rides the train past the other two women’s homes each day. As the three women’s lives unfold, it seems like this book is going to be a Hichcockish story, but instead ends up resembling an afternoon soap opera as the author spins a tale of secrets, deceit and eventually murder.

Rachel is riding the train into the city each day because her roommate does not know that Rachel has lost her job. Rachel has a serious drinking problem. We learn that she has lost not only her job, but her husband and her self worth. Rachel is a mess. We soon learn that Rachel used to live on that street and in fact Anna, one of the other narrators, is the new wife of Rachel’s ex-husband Tom. Worse, the home where Anna lives was originally Rachel’s home. At first, readers are not aware of any connection between the third woman, Megan, and the other two. Rachel has watched Megan and her husband from the train each morning and evening for quite awhile, going so far as to make up names and invent a pretend life for the couple. But as Megan takes over narrating the story, we discover that she once worked as a nanny for Anna and Tom. For the first fifty or so pages, the book seems to be a train going nowhere. I found it dreadfully hard to stay focused as my mind tried to wander.

However, the pace of the book picks up quite a bit when Megan disappears and Rachel wakes up from a “blackout” drinking binge banged up, sick and bloody. Shortly thereafter Anna starts wondering if things are quite the way she‘s been led to believe. From that point on the book becomes hard to put down.

Not one of the characters is likeable in any way. Certainly not the five main characters, but even the two or three minor characters come off poorly. They make horrid decisions, have least one closely guarded secret each and are not truthful with anyone, especially themselves. While as readers we get to know their flaws, they don’t really ring true except for Rachel’s drinking binges. It would appear that Hawkins has researched alcoholism and alcoholic blackouts.

And yet, in spite of strongly disliking the lot of them, after Megan disappeared, the book was compelling. I wanted to know what happened and why. I’d suggest picking it up and giving it a try, but just know at the onset, this is a soap opera not a reinvention of Hitchcock’s Rear Window.

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