The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

9781784161101

My head leaning against the carriage window, I watch these houses roll past me like a tracking shot in a film. I see them as others do not; even their owners probably don’t see them from this perspective. Twice a day, I am offered a view into other lives, just for a moment. There’s something comforting about the sight of strangers safe at home.

Rachel, the main narrator of The Girl on the Train, takes the 8.04 commuter train to London and the 17.56 back every weekday, and that train each time stops at a red light next to a Victorian-semi; number fifteen in Blenheim Road, where ‘Jason and Jess’ live. From what Rachel have seen through the carriage window, Jason and Jess are the true embodiment of love, “a perfect, golden couple”. That is what Rachel once shared with her ex-husband Tom, and that is what she yearns to have once more. But one day Rachel sees something in passing, and what she sees in those split seconds will change her life, perhaps make her more than ‘a girl on the train’.

Paula Hawkins, even though The Girl on the Train is her debut, makes certain crucial observations on life through this novel. For example, when Paula speaks of women’s fertility and the social stigma that still revolves around barren women, it makes us wonder how did something so personal and intimate ended up a table topic open for everyone’s input and opinion.

… let’s be honest: women are still only really valued for two things – their looks and their role as mothers. I’m not beautiful, and I can’t have kids, so what does that make me? Worthless.

Through Rachel, Paula portrays the detrimental impact society could have on these women, making them feel like social pariahs, when in reality they are no different from the next person.

Furthermore, Paula speaks of the ugliness of alcoholism. When alcoholics go far down the rabbit hole, they tend to drag those who surround them along. In this story Cathy; Rachel’s “half-friend” from university, the only one who is around to pick up pieces of Rachel’s broken life, also pays a price for Rachel’s addiction when she continuously disrupts Cathy’s orderly life and well kept house.

This story, despite the light it sheds on certain issues, left me with mixed feelings. As a thriller, I liked it. I had an instinct of who would have killed Megan – there was one ambiguous paragraph early on the story that raised my guard – however, the build up was undeniably good. But I loathed ALL the characters in the book! I can’t remember the last time I read a book where I didn’t have anyone to root for! It was frustrating for the most part, because there were more than one instance where I wanted shake the characters, specially Rachel, and ask ’em to pull it together! I’m sure most of you would have read Gone Girl, and I still recall how much I admired Amy Dunne despite her awful, manipulative behavior. When Amy got hurt, she didn’t break down. She was vengeful and concocted the perfect crime! That required some serious thinking, and I liked her for being smart and patient enough to pull that off and it almost made me forgive her for being a sociopath! But Rachel was the complete opposite of Amy. Sure, life dealt Rachel a much worse hand than it did for Amy, but the moment things took a turn for the worst, Rachel’s solution was to find solace in alcohol! Even when her alcoholism started to create marital problems, she could not stop herself. It makes me sad to think Rachel didn’t even try to give life a fair fight, because like 30 pages to the end we realize Rachel is not that bad a person. To her credit, Rachel is the kind of person who would risk her life to help people who have wronged her. I feel if Rachel hadn’t annoyed me till that absolute tail end of the book, I would have appreciated her much more!

Having said that, I think I will go watch The Girl on the Train once the movie is released and let these characters drive me nuts all over again! 😀

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7 comments

  1. I’m pretty keen for this book/movie…whichever I get to first! Is it very similar to Gone Girl?

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    1. I like Gone Girl more. 🙂

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  2. […] my opinion, for a debut, Robin Sloan has fared far better than Paula Hawkins did with The Girl on the Train. And I wish someday soon someone will make Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore in to a […]

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  3. […] When it came to the plot, I had mixed feelings. I empathized with Blanca. I am very close to my mother, and can not imagine life without her. However, there were times I really wanted to shake Blanca and ask her to get ahold of herself, for I do not believe grief can be overcome by drugs, alcohol, or casual sex. Blanca’s behavior even reminded me of self-destructive Rachel in The Girl on the Train! […]

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  4. Really enjoyed this review. Thanks!

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    1. Glad to hear it. 🙂 Thank you!

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  5. […] premise in The Woman in Cabin 10 is good, but from early on I could see similarities to The Girl on the Train. To suppress the anxiety caused by the break-in, Lo keeps on drinking one drink after another. So […]

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