Review: The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

26/07/2016 Reviews 10

Review: The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins‘”When did you become so weak?” I don’t know. I don’t know where that strength went, I don’t remember losing it. I think that over time it got chipped away, bit by bit, by life, by the living of it.’

I finally got around to reading Paula Hawkins bestselling novel The Girl On The Train, and it has seriously made me wonder why I don’t read thrillers more often. The only two I’ve read in ages have been this one and Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson, and both of them have been absolute page-turners!

Rachel Watson travels on the same train to London every day. Every day she passes the house where she used to live with her ex-husband Tom, and where he nows lives with the woman he left her for and their baby daughter. But Rachel often finds herself watching a house a couple of doors down instead. To her, the house’s occupants seem like the perfect couple: young and beautiful and madly in love. She names them Jess and Jason and imagines what their perfect life must be like…that’s until she sees something shocking as she watches from the train. And when she sees on the news not long after that Jess (actually called Megan) has gone missing she is plunged into the centre of her perfect couple’s lives and finds that everything is not as it seems…

To me, one of the best things about this book was the complexity of the characters. I know a lot of people have taken issue with this book because all of the female characters are pretty much portrayed as messed-up and selfish, but I personally thought that the same could be said of most of the male characters too.

The fact that most of the characters are fairly unlikable in a lot of ways was actually a surprisingly positive thing about this book. As this is a psychological thriller it was interesting to get into the heads of people you just couldn’t really relate to, yet were profoundly human and flawed, and I did find myself feeling genuinely sorry for them, particularly Rachel as she is caught up in a cycle of obsession and addiction. I haven’t read a book before with a main character quite like Rachel, so it made for an interesting change of pace, however frustrating it is to see her repeatedly make the same mistakes and miss the things that are right in front of her face.

Of the three women’s narratives presented in the books I felt that Anna’s was the least necessary: it didn’t add a huge amount to the plot, although it was interesting to get her perspective considering how much of the book you spend hating her on Rachel’s behalf. Whilst she didn’t necessarily become likeable through her own narrative, her actions were at least explained.

I seemed to absolutely fly through this book as the pace was fast, and the mystery of what had happened to Megan kept me intrigued and anxiously turning the pages. I know a lot of people have called this book predictable, and to an extent I agree: by the time I was a good two-thirds of the way through the book I was pretty certain I knew what had happened, and who was responsible (and I had had suspicions for quite a while before that!). This didn’t really ruin my enjoyment of the book though, but I can see why it might do for others.

I really don’t know what took me so long to get round to reading The Girl On The Train, as it was as gripping and intriguing as I had heard. I don’t generally read thrillers which is maybe what had held me back, but I really enjoyed this one, and it really does make me want to read some more (so any recommendations would be welcomed!). The plot was tight and fast-moving and the characters were convincing as real, flawed human beings, however frustrating and at times unlikable they were. If you’ve been putting this one off like I had, I really do recommend getting to it soon!

Rating: 4/5

10 Responses to “Review: The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins”

  1. Greg

    I kinda felt bad for Rachel even though she frustrated me at times. I think you’re absolutely right about none of the characters being particularly likeable, and Anna didn’t do much for me either. I did get bogged down a little in the middle of the story but I powered it through and really wanted to see how it would end. And I’m looking forward to the movie version as well.

    • Laura

      I’m really looking forward to the movie now too. I’ve watched the trailer and feel like it’s going to be quite different from the book, so I’m really interested to see how they interpret it.
      I’m so glad you enjoyed this too! 🙂

  2. Kelsey

    Ah I want to read this now! 95% of people I know who have read it have said it was great but a couple of people didn’t like it so I was put off by their reviews.

    If you are after another thriller to read I would recommend Lasting Damage from Sophie Hannah, it’s about a women who is looking on a property website and does one of those virtual tour things and sees a crime scene, but when she plays the video again everything is as it should be!

    • Laura

      I would definitely recommend this book! I really enjoyed it, although I did wonder a bit whether I would because I’d also read a few negative reviews about it.
      And thanks so much for the recommendation! The concept of that book sounds really intriguing, so I’ll have to check that one out 🙂

  3. Rabiah

    I loved this one–I hated the characters for sure, but the story was so interesting and to see the complexity of the characters…jeez this book still makes me shiver, ‘cause that ending was so unexpected. Great review!! 😀

    • Laura

      I totally agree! It’s rare for me to enjoy a book so much when I don’t really like any of the characters, but I really enjoyed this one 🙂

  4. Lia Levina

    I agree with Rabiah. I liked this book just fine. I didn’t particularly like the characters but the curiosity kept me going. I never saw the characters as human and flawed before, as I was frustrated with the way Rachel acted. She could’ve solved the case sooner if she didn’t let the addiction rule over her. Your comment about the characters being unlikable is actually a positive thing kind of opened my eyes about this book. Perhaps I have to reread this book before the movie comes out!

    • Laura

      I definitely felt frustrated with Rachel too at times, and just wanted her to get it together so she could figure it all out faster, so I get what you mean there. I feel like that’s what made her addiction seem so real though, because however much she knows she’s getting in her own way and messing up she just can’t stop.
      I imagine this book is definitely one that’s worth a reread, because I bet there’s loads of little hints and stuff that could be missed first time round 🙂

  5. Tiziana

    A psychological thriller with unlikable characters? I definitely should read this book then! And if it’s a page-turner like Before I Go to Sleep (I loved that one), then I’m sure I will like it. Nice review! 🙂

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