Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Admittedly, I’m a little on the fence with this book. Despite the fact that I couldn’t put it down and stormed through it within less than 3 days, I think that may have been due to my desire for it to end.

The book introduces the perspectives of Rachel, Megan and Anna; three women whose lives are entwined in ways that they would never have imagined. Rachel is a drunk, lonely and divorced. She takes the 8.04am train into Euston everyday and lives for the moment that the train stops in the same spot, so she can romanticise the lives of the people she sees. Giving them everything she has lost and desires. Anna is mistress turned wife turned mother and homemaker. She despises the existence of the sad and pathetic ex-wife that just won’t leave her alone. The only tarnish on her perfect marriage… or so she may think. And finally, there’s Megan. Seemingly happily married but is the unfulfilled, haunted and empty victim who has the darkest secret out of them all.

I can’t deny that the plot is brilliant, expertly thought out and thrilling to watch unfold. Despite my constant guessing, I was never right. Which is what you want from a thriller, right? Always being pointed in the wrong direction and inevitably shocked when the pieces come together. However, it was exceedingly frustrating to watch these weak and pitiful women be overpowered, beaten and broken down by twisted, selfish and desperate men. Every time Rachel would open another bottle or buy another drink to drown her sorrows, I wanted to shake her and yell at her to get a bloody grip. All of the women within this novel tear down another woman in some way or another and it’s what makes them so desperate for a man’s approval.

The plot wouldn’t be what it was without these women. It would never have had the impact it did if the characters weren’t constantly fighting against one another, rather than working with one another. It would be nothing, too easy almost, without an unreliable, erratic and unstable drunk, who no one can take seriously but who really is closer to the answer than anyone else. The ‘perfect’ wife, haunted by the pathetic ex who just can’t let go. Blinded by her hatred. Refusing to accept her husband’s wrongdoings, unreliable to do the right thing if it may spoil her perfect family. And the troublemaker, the cheat; trapped and made vulnerable by her own dark past and unable to break her destructive cycle.

These three women share the narrative, jumping from morning to evening and recalling the day. The multiple perspectives, along with the broken time-scale, left the narrative jumping from one part to another and unsmooth. While it built tension to hear everything retrospectively and malleable to the affects of the narrators’ feelings, it wasn’t something I was enthralled by. The narrators, with their perspectives tainted and blinded by alcohol, undying love or desire, left me feeling suspicious and untrusting that what was being accounted was actually completely true.

The novel is a hard-hitting thriller with an ability to evoke doubt, pity and suspicion. Hawkins does a brilliant job to conceal any clues to the mystery of this “whodunnit” novel. The big reveal was subtle and completely under dramatic, but that’s all it needed. The drama is still yet to unfold after this particular moment of clarity and the book progresses suddenly into a dark, violent and shocking story. Aspects of this book were thoroughly enjoyable, gripping and thought provoking but I just couldn’t completely enjoy its style of narration or it’s choice in weak, hysterical and dependent female characters. Apologies from the feminist within me.

2/5 Mockingbirds

Beth xo