The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

She’s buried beneath a silver birch tree, down towards the old train tracks, her grave marked with a cairn.

– Opening sentence

You might have heard of this book.

Published in January 2015,  The Girl on the Train was an instant success. It had sold over 1 million copies by March 2015, and occupied the number one spot of the UK hardback book chart for 20 weeks (a record!).

For whatever reason, I didn’t get swept up in the initial hype. I knew that the book was a sensation, but I just never got around to owning a copy.

Then it got made into a movie a year later in 2016. And I still hadn’t read it. By now I was starting to hear things like “overrated” and “not worth the hype”, and I decided that I really should read it myself to what all the fuss was about.

So I borrowed my Mum’s copy and made the plunge with mixed expectations.

I found The Girl on the Train an easy page-turner. The three narrators,  Rachel, Anna and Megan are very ‘human’ characters, although Rachel appears to be the most relatable (and most annoying).

Rachel is a sad, lonely woman in her mid-thirties who spends her days drinking and thinking about what could have been (and the woman who stole it all it from her).

Anna (the woman who stole it all from Rachel) is a young Mum living in the house her husband shared with his ex-wife. She just wants a normal, family life free from her husband’s past.

Megan’s story is all over the newspapers. She’s gone missing, and people think her husband has had something to do with it.

The book is told from the different perspectives of these women. I’m used to the way some books jump between different character perspectives, but with The Girl on the Train you really need to pay attention to the dates as the author jumps from the past to present quite a bit.

The first half of the book is very centred and believable. Hawkins does a good job of drawing the reader in and setting the scene for something not-quite-right.

However, I must say I found the second half more unrealistic and far-fetched. It seemed to drag a bit more, and I don’t know whether that was Hawkins deliberately trying to build suspense or not – if so I don’t think it worked. Some of the subplots and ‘fluff’ seemed a bit unnecessary and could have been removed without detriment to the story.

That being said, I was compelled to keep reading and discover the truth. As a who-done-it, Hawkins left me guessing until right near the very end, which is not always easy to do.

But it just end quite abruptly, which didn’t really fit with the rest of the book. I felt like I needed some more clarification about what happened next, and was disappointed that I didn’t get it.

Also, I don’t have high hopes for the film. Emily Blunt is nothing like the character described in the book, which leads me to assume that there will be quite a few other discrepancies. I will give it a watch though, and update this post when I do with my thoughts.

Overall, I’d give The Girl on the Train 4 out of 5. I don’t think it quite lives up to the hype, BUT I did feel compelled to read it and I did enjoy it.

And I have to get up early tomorrow morning, to catch the train.

– Final sentence

4 Stars (4 / 5)

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