Friday, 8 May 2015

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train
By Paula Hawkins
Published by Doubleday (15 January 2015)
ISBN: 978-0857522313

Publisher's description
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cosy 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 called 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 in, but it's enough. Now everything's changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

My verdict
Not many readers of popular fiction won't have heard of The Girl on the Train over the last few months. Following all of the media attention the book has received, I felt that I needed to read it for myself to see what all the fuss is about.

Rachel - the girl on the train - takes the same two journeys every day. To pass the time, she makes up stories about the people she sees on her route, developing an obsession with a particular couple, whom she calls Jess and Jason. The couples' real names are Megan and Scott. They live in the same road as Rachel's ex-husband (Tom), his wife Anna and their baby. When Megan goes missing, Rachel believes that she saw something important on her train journey, but she isn't the most reliable witness.

The Girl on the Train starts off fairly slowly before picking up speed. There are three narrators - Rachel, Megan and Anna. The narrative switches from their different viewpoints and from past to present, and this is clearly marked at the beginning of each chapter/section.

While I enjoyed the book overall, I still couldn't see what all of the hype is about. Yes it's well-written, compulsive reading, but no more than some other psychological thrillers I have read recently (many of which I preferred). The writing really draws you in, and the author has captured Rachel's battle with addiction particularly well.

The Girl on the Train has been compared to Gone Girl and I can see why. The characters are largely unpleasant and/or damaged, which is the draw of both books. In both cases, the story builds up gradually as you read, and there are several twists and turns along the way.

Gone Girl fans will probably love The Girl on the Train - unfortunately I'm not one of them. Yet I would still recommend this book to anyone who also wants to see what the hype is about - they may love The Girl on the Train far more than me. It's a really 'Marmite' book.

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