I picked up Paula Hawkin’s “The Girl on the Train” after I saw a trailer for the upcoming movie. I’m a sucker for film adaptations – I love reading and seeing how the story translates to film. Though, like most people, I usually think the book is far superior. But that doesn’t stop me. I downloaded the book and found myself finishing it in a few days.
It’s a psychological thriller, frequently compared to Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl.” The author changes character perspective from chapter to chapter and keeps you on the edge of your seat. The twists in “Gone Girl” were more unexpected, but I really enjoyed my time reading “The Girl on the Train.”
My favorite part is how genuine the main protagonist, Rachel, feels. She’s a recently divorced, unemployed alcoholic whose torment feels incredibly tangible. Her husband cheated on her with Anna, another character who has a first-person narrative.
You can’t help but feel bad for Rachel. In her own abusive thoughts and how cruelly she’s treated by others, she’s a person who’s utterly broken and tormented. I found myself hoping she wasn’t the ‘bad guy’ of the story – and that she’d be able to find some peace by the end.
Rachel takes the same train every weekday so her roommate doesn’t realize she’s been fired. In addition to many gin and tonics, she numbs her feelings of despair by narrating the life of a couple she sees from the train. Their patio faces the train tracks and they’re often outside having coffee and chatting. She imagines a perfect life for Jess and Jason – the fake names she’s given them. She also makes up jobs, interests and personas. Anything to help distract from her own loneliness.
Rachel’s obsession becomes a bit more understandable when you find out that her ex-husband lives only a few houses down the street.
But Rachel’s illusion is shattered one fateful morning. As her train passes by the house, she sees “Jess” kissing another man. After her own ex-husband’s infidelity and the delusions she’s created about Jess and Jason, she becomes outraged.
After a long night of drinking, Rachel wakes up the next morning with some injuries and a nagging feeling that something’s gone terribly wrong. Soon enough, she finds out “Jess” – who is actually Megan Hipwell - has gone missing. As Rachel throws herself into the investigation, we find out that she is more linked to Megan than she realizes.
As we switch between Rachel, Anna and Megan’s stories, you’ll find them all to be somewhat unreliable narrators. Their motivations and secrets all converge to solve the mystery.
To be honest, by the time I reached the end of the book, I had a feeling I knew who the culprit was. But I still enjoyed my time with “The Girl on the Train.” And I’ll definitely be going to see the film!
That book is “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins. It’s published by Riverhead Books.The film adaptation will be released on Friday, October 7. Our reviewer, Erin Cassidy Hendrick, is an associate producer at WPSU-FM.