I’m not the first person to be enthralled by Paula Hawkins’ debut novel The Girl on the Train. A quick glance at any of the current bestseller lists suggests that plenty of other people have been sucked in to this deviously curious story. Right from the opening, Hawkins drips out tasty droplets of mystery and intrigue, and sends a clear message that, if we want to know what it all adds up to, we’ll have to be as patient as the main character, Rachel, and her fellow commuters on the 8:04 train to Euston.
I was immediately pulled in by the structure of the book, sitting with Rachel as she goes back and forth on the same journey day after day. Having once been a train commuter, I could relate to her knowing the journey by heart, looking for familiar faces and landmarks, and even speculating at the lives happening inside the houses she passes. But we soon learn that Rachel’s is far from an ordinary commute and, with each passing trip, we discover more and more about her spectacularly flawed personality. It’s this slow acquaintance—the way you’d get to know someone over time—that allows us to understand and even root for Rachel when she eventually gets off the train and starts to make a series of very bad decisions. Even as we cringe and silently beg her not to do what she’s thinking of doing, we completely understand why she’s doing it, and we want to follow behind her like a good friend, to make sure she comes out of her mess intact.
The Girl on the Train was the first book I downloaded with the Audible subscription I recently received as a gift. * It’s been years since I listened to a “book on tape” and hearing the distinct voices of the three main female characters, Rachel, Megan, and Anna, added an extra dimension to the story. I particularly enjoyed how each woman interpreted the other characters in the story based on her own experience, giving the reader a multi-faceted picture.
The Girl on the Train is described as a “psychological thriller” which would normally be enough to make me take a pass. But it’s so much more than that. It’s a story about everywoman, someone whose life has jumped the rails in some way. It’s a story of love, loss, mistakes, and secrets that would have had me turning the pages, had I had pages to turn. With its short chapters and alternating viewpoints, it kept me up late as I listened to “just one more” to see what happened next.
Some reviewers have called the book “the next Gone Girl” but where Gone Girl left me fascinated but despising the flawed main characters, The Girl on the Train left me nodding in understanding, and thinking “Well, what else could she have done?”
Did you enjoy The Girl on the Train? If so, I’d love to hear your other book recommendations.
*This seems like a good place to note that my “Book Love” posts are where I share books that I’ve purchased or borrowed, read, and loved. I’m not paid to write reviews and I’m not given free review copies. I love getting book recommendations from friends and this is where I’m sharing mine.