Book Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Publisher:  Riverhead Books

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?

There's a whole lot of crazy crammed into this story and I rather enjoyed it. I did figure out somewhat early what must have been the thing that the three women had in common and I enjoyed reading along to find out that I was correct. I found the reveal, confession & resolution rather quick (it's literally a few pages) but I've read other books where this happens so I think it must be that the journey was really the point and the Who and Why is not the raison d'Γͺtre.

I found it most difficult to abide with Rache but she's the first unreliable narrator I've enjoyed reading in a very long while. This close look in with an alcoholic was suffocating, uncomfortable, pitiable and infuriating all at the same time. Ultimately, I think she was well written because I felt a lot for and toward her as I read. I even hoped for her to succeed at something, anything, for herself in the end. Meghan, while she had her own box of issues was a bit less real to me or more correctly, she was remote. I don't know if that was by design or just my interpretation while reading about her point of view. Though told in her voice, I felt that I never knew who she was. I was reading about her but I never felt like she was quite there. Given how things unfold in the story, perhaps that's the point. Anna seemed a clear character and while I didn't like her either, I saw where she was coming from and took some satisfaction in the truths that rained down on her about the life she cattily constructed and had thought she was immune from.

The men in the story, Scott, Tom and Kamal were fine as characters but never felt as well crafted as the women and given that they are the hinges on which most of the angst is hung, I found that a shame. Still, their actions did come together neatly and I thought they were woven in well.

I know this is oft compared to Gone Girl (which I've not read) so I don't know if it's a must read for fans of that book, but I do think it's a great and fast read for fans of mysteries and psychological thrillers. If you like intimate looks at the not so pretty sides of people, give this one a read.

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