Book Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Gripping and compelling, this psychological thriller with an almost creepy undertone, asks the question, How well do we really know anyone else?  4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar. Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…

Favourite Quote

Life is not a paragraph and death is no parenthesis.

(from The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, pg17.  The quote is referencing a poem by E.E. Cummings)


I might appear to be behind with this one, but just let me just say, I can’t read super popular books when they are in the middle of their super-crazy-popular phase.  I have to wait until things calm down a bit before I can read them.  Why? I’m not sure really.  Perhaps it has something to do with wanting to find my own opinion and judgement on the book, and not be swayed by anyone else’s…As I said, I’m not sure really.  I’m pleased to say that I managed to keep far enough away from the buzz of this one, that, when I did finally pick it up, I had no idea what the book was about, apart from what the book title and description alluded to.

The pace is fast and the style of writing makes for fast and easy reading.  I had trouble putting the book down once I really got into the story, thanks to the creepy undertone of this psychological thriller; I needed to find out what happened next.

There are three women at the heart of this story – Rachel, Anna and Megan – and to be honest, none of them are particularly likeable.  And that doesn’t just go for these three woman; I would be hard pressed to name a character I actually liked in the book.

I felt very sorry for Rachel for what she had been through, and pitied her tremendously regarding her present situation.  On more than one occasion I had to put book the down as I found myself cringing so badly in reaction to what she was saying and doing; I just had to stop reading, pause and take a breather, before I could continue on.  My reaction to it reminded me of that scene from Friends when the book has to go into the freezer.  I spent most of the book not liking Anna at all.  I didn’t feel sorry for her and found her somewhat annoying, in a whiny, I want things my own way, sort of way.  And as for Megan and her destructive personality – gosh.  Then there was Scott and Tom…

What makes this book work and work well, is that the reader knows the characters can’t be trusted; they are unreliable narrators, as they admit to themselves they have blackouts and can’t remember things or hide things they don’t want to see from themselves as well as those around them.  So the story we are presented with is seen through a distorted prism and the reader is waiting for the picture to clear.  I did see the twist coming, but that in no way diminished my enjoyment of the book.  In fact, I think it heightened the tension.

This books asks the question: how well do we really know anyone else, even those we are close to, those we love, those we share our lives with?  What secrets might be lurking just below the surface, and what will happen when they finally come out?

This was definitely a gripping and compelling read, but I’ve only rated it four stars because it was filled, in my opinion, with wholly unlikeable characters whom, for the most part, I could not really connect to.  There are a number of emotional scenes in the story, which certainly ramped up the empathy factor but if you need to like the characters in the book you’re reading to enable you to enjoy it, this might not be for you.  But if love your fiction tense, psychological and full of secrets, where the mystery takes centre stage, then you might very well enjoy it.



6 thoughts on “Book Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

  1. Pingback: Bookish Reflections – March 2019 | Sammi Loves Books

  2. I resist reading a book that “everyone” is talking about too, but then sometimes I wish I knew what the heck everyone is talking about! From the beginning, this didn’t sound like my kind of book: I have enough anxiety in my life without reading thrillers. And I think I would be bothered by the unlikeable characters, too. So thanks for your review — now I don’t have to feel bad about not reading this one!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. By the way you describe it, I can imagine holding the book at full arm’s length, head turned away, to read it at an odd angle. And I have done that when encountering a painful scene, but not for the entire book.
    And I had thought it would be similar to Christie’s *4:30 Train from Paddington* 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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