Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

I get the train to and from work every day, but I can’t say that I pay much attention to what’s happening outside – I’m too busy reading (and sometimes sleeping, shh).

And I think Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train is the perfect book to read while commuting, for reasons that are sort of obvious.

Rachel gets the train to and from work every day, and every day the train stops at red lights in the same place – opposite a house that is home to a beautiful young couple. Rachel has given them names, and careers, and lives vicariously through her imagined version of their perfect lives. And then one day, things are not so perfect. The woman in Rachel’s perfect couple goes missing, and the man is under suspicion, and Rachel thinks she knows something about what happened.

The unreliable narrator is in vogue right now, but Hawkins injects a welcome shot of something different into Rachel. She’s definitely an unreliable narrator, but Rachel wants more than anything to be reliable. She knows people don’t trust her, and she knows she’s give them no reason to, but she also knows that she’s not cried wolf before about something like this. Accompanying Rachel as she struggles to work out what she knows about the missing woman, and how she knows it, is fascinating. Hawkins has created a character full to the brim with faults, but despite that Rachel is sympathetic and likeable, and I rooted for her all the way through.

The Girl on the Train features a number of viewpoints – three very different women who are revealed to have a lot in common as the novel progresses. And all of those women have different (sort of) men in their lives, who turn out to also have a lot in common. Hawkins’ novel is a fascinating study in how circumstance can make bedfellows of us all – some people happily let themselves be drawn into a certain situation, others have to be backed into a corner.

The Girl on the Train is a murder mystery, a psychological thriller, and a novel that is all about voyeurism, looking at other people’s lives, about projecting our own hopes and desires onto people we don’t know but think live on the greener side of the fence. In some ways, Rachel is all of us, on the outside looking in. And in other ways, in most ways, Rachel is nothing like any of us, which is something to be thankful of. But that’s the beauty of this book – with The Girl on the Train we can all indulge in a bit of voyeurism with Rachel, and then put her away when we get to our station.

The Girl on the Train is released in the UK on January 15, 2015.

•How I got this book: From the publisher, Doubleday. This did not affect my review.

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