Book Review: The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train is our first non-fantasy, non-sci fi review since 1945. The book, not the year (I’m sorry). This slow-burning, intense mystery delves deep into the psyche of three strong, flawed women as their lives intersect the murder which rocks their quiet neighborhood. 

The Basics: 

Title: The Girl on the Train
Author: Paula Hawkins
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Publisher: Riverhead Books (2014)

Spoiler-Free Summary: 

Rachel is a down-on her luck London commuter who literally views life through a window. To escape what she sees as her sad reality, she fantasizes about the imagined dream lives of her fellow commuters. She witnesses a shocking event that destroys her perfect fantasy, and pulls her into a web of intrigue, lies, and murder. 

Beyond the central mystery, this is a story about relationship and purpose, choice and consequence. Nobody is what they seem at first glance, and nearly everybody wants to be someone else. 

Why this book might be for you:

The Girl on The Train is an intriguing mystery and an engrossing thriller. I literally shouted at my book at the Big Reveal. Perhaps I’m too trusting, but it got me.

Hawkins is a master of character and perspective. The chapters bounce between the first-person experiences of the victim, Rachel (the witness), and a woman who connects the two. Each character’s voice is distinct and the immersion is complete. We ride a roller-coaster of suspicion as each woman interprets various events, witnesses, and suspects through her own experience.

This novel deals candidly with real issues: addiction, depression, anxiety, and the general angst of looking for fulfillment in our circumstances. 

The prose is clear, but is sprinkled with bursts of poetic language. The read itself is worth it for fans of more figurative writing styles, like The Slow Regard of Silent Things

Why this book might not be for you: 

If you prefer your mysteries with darker killers, or your thrillers with more explosions and international stakes, The Girl on the Train may not be for you. This story draws its tension more from the depth of its emotional impact on the people involved, rather than the size of its spectacle. 

This novel head-hops and plays with different timelines intentionally. If you prefer things more straightforward, this may not be the book for you. 

Where can you find more?

You can read about Paula Hawkins on her website, or on her corner of Penguin/Random House (complete with short vlogs). You can purchase books on her site, or, as always, Amazon and Goodreads

If, for some reason, you’re reading a book blog but you prefer movies, the film adaptation came out in 2016.

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