Book Review: The Girl on the Train

Book Review: The Girl on the Train
The Girl on the Train (2015)
by Paula Hawkins
Details
Release Date: January 13, 2015; Writer: Paula Hawkins
Genre: Mystery and Thriller; Publisher: Riverhead Books
“One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy, five for silver, six for gold, seven for a secret never to be told.” Paula Hawkins’ novel, The Girl on the Train, cleverly plays with an unreliable narrator to create suspense.  The story is narrated by three women, each with bias and flaws that skew their stories. Rachel Watson, the main narrator, struggles with loneliness and alcoholism. She is blinded by the obsession she has with her ex husband, the hatred she feels for his new wife, and the romanticized thoughts she has about “Jess” and “Jason”, two people she sees from the train everyday.

Paula Hawkins’ novel, The Girl on the Train, cleverly plays with an unreliable narrator to create suspense.”

“Jess,” (SPOILER ALERT), is actually Megan Hipwell, and she goes missing. She is also our second narrator. We find that she struggles with insomnia and anxiety, as well as a terrible habit of lying. Megan is haunted by the demons of her past, which provide a possible reason for her disappearance. Megan is married to Scott Hipwell, an emotionally abusive man who struggles with controlling his anger and jealousy.
The final narrator is Anna, Tom Watson’s new wife. She is filled with paranoia and is overly sensitive when it comes to her family. Also, she holds onto anger towards Rachel, who struggles to stay away from the family that lives in the house that was once her own. The house that just so happens to be a few doors down from the Hipwell’s.
The novel’s focus is on the night of July 13, 2013: the night Megan Hipwell goes missing. Rachel knows she was in town on that night, but cannot remember what she saw or who she saw. She was too drunk to remember, and only remembers waking up bloody and bruised at home. She inserts herself into the investigation, feeling some sort of purpose for getting involved. She struggles to piece together her memories to figure out what happened. Everyone is a potential killer, and Rachel is almost no help since her memories are clouded.

Paula’s narrators each provide an important insight on the role of women and society’s expectations and stereotypes.”

Paula Hawkins, although successful in keeping her readers continuously guessing, somewhat over saturates the story with side plots. These stories serve to provide alternative suspects and motives, however, they become somewhat messy and unnecessary. Yes, they distract from the main suspects and create suspicion and doubt for readers, but the back stories just become extraneous and the novel would be fine without them.
Paula’s narrators each provide an important insight on the role of women and society’s expectations and stereotypes. Rachel says that “women are still only really valued for two things—their looks and their role as mothers.” Maternity and beauty are each constant themes in the novel. They serve as the background between each woman’s instability, as well as play into the readers’ own judgements of the characters. We can sympathize with them, seeing as they feel the pressure on themselves to be good mothers, good wives, as well as pretty and obedient. The depth of the characters is a part of what makes the novel so enticing, as readers feel bad for them or angry with them.

Overall, the novel is a page-turner. The slow secretion of detail as well as twists in character evaluations make The Girl on the Train almost impossible to put down.”

Overall, the novel is a page-turner. The slow secretion of detail as well as twists in character evaluations make The Girl on the Train almost impossible to put down. We feel like detectives ourselves while reading, trying to use clues to solve the mystery of Megan Hipwell’s disappearance ourselves.  We make judgements on characters as well as doubt their trustworthiness. Almost all of our opinions are thrown out, with each page bringing about new information and changing what we believe to be true, ultimately ending in a way almost no one would believe. Read The Girl on the Train to enter into a mystery yourself.
Please share our stories: