The Girl on the train, book review, Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train- book review

 There is a pile of clothing on the side of the train tracks. 

Friday, 5 July 2013

The Girl on the Train is the exceptional thriller from author Paula Hawkins, the journey literally starts one morning on the 8.04 train, where Rachel makes her daily commute to work. The train judders past the usual warehouses, bridges and modest Victorian houses in Witney where Rachel is offered a view from the train window in to the lives of those living amongst the train tracks in these very same Victorian houses. But number 15 is Rachel’s favourite house. She has observed the occupants of number 15 for some while, twice a day; on the way to and back from work. She imagines the perfect couple that live there to be blissfully happy and to adore one another. Her failed marriage to Tom who eventually left her for another woman only adds to her existing issues making her even more lonely and dependant on alcohol. Her fixation with the people living at number 15 makes her happy, watching the man who she likes to call Jason, adore his wife who she has named Jess, takes her out of her own misery for a while, just for a few seconds a day as the train crawls past their home. It also takes her focus away from having to endure the pain of watching what is happening a few doors down at number 23, the house where Rachel used to live with her husband Tom two years ago. Tom now lives at number 23 with his new wife Anna and their baby daughter. One particular day however, the train stops near the signal as usual, and as Rachel looks out at number 15 she sees her beloved Jess out on the patio as normal, but as a male shadow approaches her and hugs her from behind, she see’s that the man is not Jess’s husband Jason, but a darker and taller man.

Wednesday, 16th May 2012 

Jess’s name is actually Megan and one of her favourite things about living in Witney and at number 15 is hearing the rhythm of the train as it accelerates, rattles and screeches to come to a stop at the signal a couple of hundred yards away from the house. She enjoys drinking her coffee outside in the mornings watching the trains, day dreaming that she was somewhere else. She lives with her husband Scott and despite a loving marriage, Megan feels unsatisfied. After her art gallery was closed down, she tries her hand at other jobs even becoming a nanny to the daughter of the couple living at number 23 a few doors down, but she misses the glam of her life before. Megan has some unresolved issues regarding her past, at night she can’t sleep and she suffers panic attacks so Scott suggests she try therapy. It is at her first therapy session she meets Dr. Kamal Abdic and the physical attraction is apparent straight away, she loves Scott, but also knows that he could never be enough for her, she likes the excitement of being with Kamal; knowing that them being together is forbidden and yet she is irresistible to him anyway.

Back to July 2013, and Rachel is on the train, fired from her job but still making the 8.04 commute so her housemate is none the wiser that she is unemployed. She feels embarrassed after emailing her ex-husband yet again whilst binge drinking the night before. On Saturday night, after drinking for most of the day, Rachel decides she will visit Witney to see her ex-husband whether his wife Anna likes it or not.

The next morning, back at her home, Rachel wakes up disorientated, she has wet herself, puked all over the stairs, there is a bump on her head and some blood on her hand but for the life of her can not remember what happened the night before. On Monday morning, she stumbles across a picture of her Jess on the internet, her Jess, one half of her perfect couple who live at number 15, next to a headline which informs the concern for the missing Witney woman named Megan, who was last seen on Saturday night, the same night Rachel can’t remember anything about apart from that she went to Witney! Finally Rachel is no longer just the girl on the train, watching these strangers from a distance, now she has her chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from a far and investigate to find out what happened to Megan.

The group of characters in the story are simply dynamic, the entire read is tense as the reader is left guessing a different possible ending after every chapter. Did the affair Megan was having with Dr Kamal turn ugly? Is Scott not really the perfect husband Rachel had made out? Every page is so magically detailed you want to absorb everything. Hawkins gives such an insight in to the heads of  these characters that you really go through everything with them, especially Rachel. Her daily observations, how her mind works, you can see that she’s truly pitiful but then she can’t be blamed, she’s a fragile woman whose had bad things happen to her. And now suddenly this disappearance almost gives her a purpose and she feels as though she needs to protect Scott and help the police. but who is going to take a strange, lonely and obsessed alcoholic seriously? The shock at the end as the reader finds out the truth to what really happened to Megan is massively unpredictable, the story is so well led up to that the ending is satisfying and definitely keeps you reading and guessing until the last page. It’s amazing how the entire concept of this book begins with simple observations made on a train because we do it in real life too, strangers we pass by daily and for just  a moment we wonder or try to guess something about their lives; where they are going or what job they have. Hawkins juggles perspectives and timescales with great skill, a masterful creation.


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