The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Published in 2015 by Doubleday
My copy: Kindle download for my July book club
Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough.
Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar.
Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…
I was keen to read this much-hyped book so was pleased when it was chosen for my July book club! I found myself immediately sucked in by the story – Rachel gets the same train each morning into London, and watches a couple for the small amount of time her train stops at a signal. She gives the couple names and becomes quite attached to them, despite not really knowing them at all.
But then one of the people she has been watching disappears, on a night that Rachel happened to be in the area. She feels that she may know what has happened but has lost her memory as she was drunk. But she is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, and soon finds herself in way too deep…
I really liked the way this book built up at the start – we realise just how unstable Rachel is and slowly find out more about her and why she is in the situation she is in. She has a lot of issues – not least her alcohol dependency which is really well portrayed – and her life is in a total mess. We also discover that the couple Rachel watches happen to live just a few doors down from her old house…
But it’s not just Rachel that we hear from – there are actually three narrators in the book. Rachel, Anna (the new wife of Rachel’s ex-husband), and Megan, the woman Rachel sees from the train. The different points of view work well to help introduce the different characters and build up the tension.The storyline gets increasingly dramatic as all sorts of secrets are revealed and the reader tries to get to the bottom of the mystery.
I read this book in about two days and found it hard to put down. It is well paced and you really want to keep on reading to find out what has happened. However, I always find myself ultimately let down by these types of thriller and this was sadly no exception! Firstly, the three female voices are all quite similar and, frankly, they are all pretty unlikeable characters in a lot of ways. While this isn’t a problem in itself, I felt it difficult to relate to any of them, and they were quite frustrating too. There also aren’t that many minor characters in the book so while you are trying to guess “whodunit”, there isn’t that big a cast to choose from, which takes the fun away a bit!
While the book builds up well to the climax, there are no really big twists along the way, and I was ultimately a bit underwhelmed by the finale which seemed unrealistic and oddly over the top, with the protagonists behaving out of character.
This book has been compared a lot to Gone Girl, but I don’t think this is as good. Gone Girl was darker and had more twists whereas this overall fell a bit flat for me and although it was fun to read, I was left feeling a bit indifferent. A good beach read I’d say – and I am a bit surprised at the sheer amount of hype this book has received!
My rating: 6 out of 10