The Girl On The Train – Paula Hawkins

Product Details

Out January 15th

Simple premise (you’ve probably heard it by now) – girl on the same train every day, sees the same couple every day, then one day sees something which, as the woman is reported missing the next night, could affect the police investigation.

Now, it’s not Rear Window – she (Rachel) doesn’t see a murder; it’s a much smaller thing than that. But, as she obsessively follows newspaper accounts of the search for Megan, the missing woman, she begins to realise her piece of information could give the police a new – possibly crucial – line of enquiry.

But let’s rewind – as the book does – and learn a little more about Rachel. She is an alcoholic, having begun drinking when all attempts at having a child with her husband Tom failed. Tom had an affair, in despair at Rachel’s drinking and (sometimes) violence towards him. The new woman (Anna) gets pregnant, so he gets rid of Rachel, moves Anna in, and Rachel ends up living in an old university friend’s spare room. But, in order to get to her job (which she in reality lost months earlier, due to her drinking, but is ashamed/afraid to tell her flatmate Cathy) she still catches the same train to and from London every morning and evening. This passes her old house, where Tom and Anna now happily live with their new baby. But rather than look at their house – her old home – she focuses on the one belonging to the missing woman and her husband, who she sees as having a perfect life. She gives them names (Jess and Jason), imagines their jobs – watching them every day, to the extent she feels she almost knows them. So when Megan/Jess disappears, as well as telling the police what she knows, she takes the opportunity to contact Jason (in reality Scott) with her information, in order to try to insert herself into his – seemingly perfect (apart from the missing wife, obviously!) life. Because, of course, she doesn’t have one of her own. But what looks perfect on the outside may not be so wonderful upon closer examination…

However, Rachel could be more involved in what happened than just seeing something from a train window. Because she was there, at the station underpass at the end of the street, around the time Megan went missing. She went there with the intention of seeing Tom, her ex, of whom she can’t seem to let go, much to Anna’s distress. And she recalls being there, with blood on her hands. But because of her drinking, she can’t remember. If only she could recall what happened. Did she hurt Megan? Did she see her that night?

The book is told from the viewpoint of the three women in the story; initially it’s alternate chapters, from Rachel and Megan, then Anna gives her side of the story. It also bounces about time-wise, in order for us to learn about the lead up to Megan’s disappearance, when, for reasons she won’t share with Scott, she’s struggling to sleep, and so begins seeing a therapist, Dr Kamal Abdic. But where is she? Is she dead? Did her husband – always the first suspect – kill her? Or someone else?  Has she been abducted, by someone she knows, or a stranger? Or has she disappeared? Alone, or with a lover? I’m not telling…

I’ve read some reviews of this book which describe Rachel as utterly unlikeable. But, to be quite honest, none of the small cast of this book come out smelling of roses…Rachel has a lot of problems – her drinking, her obsession with Tom, her lies to Cathy about her job…But as we learn more about her past life, her drink problem becomes understandable (if not excusable.) But, without revealing too much, in my humble opinion, she more than redeems herself at the end of the story, unlike the rest of our (pretty horrid) cast of characters.

This book will clearly be massive: it’s a fast moving, cleverly devised, well-paced psychological thriller, with lots of red herrings. But it’s the literary equivalent of a bag of crisps – you know it’s not very good for you, but it’s very tasty at the time. As ever, I had a good guess at whodunit – whatever “it” turned out to be – and I was right, but I didn’t get the motive – and tbh that was just dumb luck, as Hawkins was smart enough to leave it open to go any number of ways. Expect to see this book all over the place this year.

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me to read this book in exchange for my honest review.

22 thoughts on “The Girl On The Train – Paula Hawkins

      • Haha, it does sound like the perfect train or travel read! I’m trying to downsize my pile of TBR books first, but THe Girl On The Train will be high on my wishlist when I decide to start buying books again.

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      • Me too – apart from ARCs, I’m doing the TBR Double Dog Dare, and I’m not meant to buy any new books until 1st April. Mr Crimeworm finds this incredibly amusing, for some reason!

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  1. Sounds intriguing, but I must say I reckon I’ve reached my limit on reading about alcoholics – I enjoy it about as much as being sober in a room full of drunks. Maybe I should get drunk first and then read it… 😉

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    • You have my sympathies – I’m a teetotaller too, and I find I’m so impatient with drunk people. Some of Rachel’s behaviour is quite incomprehensible; for example, she’s doing well, having not drank for several days (as she’s too busy inserting herself into people’s lives in order to find out what has happened to Megan) then the next day will begin, “I waited for Cathy to go out then nipped to the corner shop for a bottle of wine…”! I guess that’s the nature of the illness, that it’s incomprehensible to others. I think alcoholism must be really hard to get over – booze assails you everywhere, in every corner shop and supermarket. You can’t avoid it. But, as I said, she does redeem herself; well, more so than everyone else! And the drinking doesn’t “take over” the novel – she functions fine most of the time.

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    • Thanks Christine! And thanks for the RT. I know you didn’t really enjoy this one! What are you reading now? I was just looking at your post about Broadchurch part 1, which I’ve just watched – great cast for series 2 isn’t it?

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    • I know – Charlotte Rampling! Wow! I can’t wait for the courtroom battle, that’ll be epic. What is he playing at, changing his plea?? And the story from Alex’s previous case looks fascinating too. I’m in envy of his house; right by the waterfront, looked lovely…yes this is going to be great. Thank goodness, as the Christmas telly was garbage!

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      • I agree. Although Charlotte Rampling was in the last and awful series of Dexter. Hopefully Broadchurch will redeem her for that.
        I am so grateful for Broadchurch and something to watch on TV.

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      • I’ve not seen the last series of Dexter, though I keep meaning to on Netflix – I think we got sidetracked in the middle of the series after the one where his lovely wife Rita (they did get married?) got murdered. That could have been 5, as I know we have box sets for 4 & 5. Though, after what you’ve just said, I won’t be rushing to watch it. The other prosecutor is of course played by the girl from Secrets and Lies, she kind of disappeared then popped up in Without A Trace – Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Wiki says is her name. And Meera Syal should be in it, according to the cast list. Every night we play “What were they in before?” which I’m v good at; great to see my memory’s being put to good use. I cheated there, using Wiki, as I couldn’t remember her surname!

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    • Hope you get it soon Lisa; I’m not sure about US publication dates, but I’m pretty sure it’ll come out there as I think this book ended up in a bidding war amongst publishers over here, so no doubt they’ll want to recoup their outlay and it’ll appear internationally – and at least you don’t have to wait for a translator to do their bit!

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    • I’ll look forward to seeing what you make of it, Sarah. It’s definitely a very feminine book – the men are even less likeable than the women (and that’s saying something!)

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  2. Like you, I managed to guess who did it, but couldn’t predict the motive – and I completely agree with you about Rachel and the rest of the characters. I don’t understand this negativity towards her – I was honestly shocked when I read some of the reviews.

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    • I found it rather sad that murderers can rank above alcoholics in “likeability”! Perhaps Rachel frightened readers – there but for the grace of God?? A mental illness or addiction can be frightening as it’s something that could happen to any of us – that’s why the breakdown of Jack Torrance in The Shining is scarier than any supernatural element can ever be. There’s also the theory that women are hypercritical of other women – I don’t think a male alcoholic would have warranted much comment at all. I’m glad you stuck up for her Vicky; I was in despair reading a lot of the reviews. And, as I’ve said, I feel she did redeem herself with her later actions. She also got some answers regarding the beginning of her addiction, and I felt she was in a position to finally move forward. Thanks for visiting and commenting, lovely to see you!

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    • Thanks Moira! Yes it’s definitely THE book of the moment, not least due to the massive publicity campaign. But for once, the hype is justified. It’s a great read, and doubtless it’ll be out in paperback just in time for the beach-read market…It’s just a very enjoyable yarn, and doesn’t pretend to be anything but!

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