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Paula Hawkins – The Girl on the Train

January 11, 2016

Hawkins, Paula - The Girl on the Train - 40056. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (2015)

Length: 320 pages
Genre: Contemporary Mystery/Thriller

Started: 21 August 2015
Finished: 23 August 2015

Where did it come from? Purchased from BookDepository.
Why do I have it? For my book club.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 18 July 2015.

What you see from a
train window isn’t even
half of the story.

Summary: Every morning on the commuter train, Rachel can see into the same row of back gardens as the train stops at a signal. In that minute or two every morning, she watches the couple that lives in one of those houses, who she’s nicknamed Jess and Jason. They look like they have a perfect, happy, stable marriage, something that the recently divorced Rachel can only dream about. Until one day Rachel sees Jess kissing someone who isn’t Jason… and then the next day Jess (whose real name is Megan) goes missing. Now Rachel has information that might help determine what happened to Megan, but getting involved means digging up painful – and potentially dangerous – secrets about her own past.

Review: Mystery-thrillers and unreliable narrators aren’t my usual fare – I probably only read them once or twice a year. But if this book is going to be my one foray into the genre this year, it was a good pick, and I absolutely understand why it’s been on the receiving end of so much hype. It’s told from three perspectives: Rachel’s, in the “present day”; Megan’s, starting about a year previously; and Anna’s, Rachel’s ex-husband’s new wife. It becomes apparent early on that none of these women are exactly telling the truth, but it’s not an “unreliable narrator” story in that the narrators are lying to us, the readers, but because they’re lying to themselves. That’s what makes it such an interesting book psychologically, trying to sort out what’s real and what’s a self-serving lie or a biased perception, and then thinking about our own lives and our own biases and blind spots. This book is very well built – there’s a slow teasing out of clues and hints and a few red herrings and a gradual building of revelations and tension in equal measure. (All of which makes it hard to write an effective summary without giving too much away!) It’s paced extremely effectively, and it’s very easy to fall into and keep reading, waiting for each successive piece to fall into place. I didn’t figure things out much before the characters did, but the resolution made good sense with what had come before, which is what I want from my mysteries (figuring it out too early’s no fun, but having it be so convoluted that you can’t figure it out even once it’s handed to you is no fun either.) And all of this is important in keeping this book readable, because all of its characters – and I do mean pretty much all of them – are really unlikeable. Which is almost certainly a function of the “everyone’s lying to everyone about everything without even knowing it” vibe of the novel, and would usually get in the way of my enjoyment of a book, but in this case I was invested enough in the mystery that I had no problem staying involved in the book and reading through it quite quickly. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Gone Girl is the obvious read-alike, with the narrators all giving self-serving versions of events. In general, if you like a good, well-plotted psychological thriller, this book will definitely fit the bill.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Jenn’s Bookshelves, Reading on a Rainy Day, Rivers I Have Known, That’s What She Read and more at the Book Blogs Search Engine.
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: She’s buried beneath a silver birch tree down towards the old train tracks.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 13, 2016 11:11 am

    I liked this book a lot too. I’ve heard a lot of people said they figured things out early but, like you, I didn’t.

  2. January 17, 2016 2:58 am

    I don’t usually like unreliable narrators, either, but it sounds like something interesting is going on here! Putting this on my goodreads to-read list :)

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