Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Book Review: "The Girl on the Train" by Paula Hawkins

Paula Hawkins' debut novel hooks you pretty quickly.

Rachel Watson takes the same train to and from her suburban London home every day. She has grown accustomed to the people on the train, and the things the train passes along its route, especially a set of houses set back from the tracks. Most days the train stops at a signal which allows her to observe the people in those houses, and she imagines they are living happier lives than she is. She often sees one attractive couple, whom she's named Jason and Jess, and she's invented careers for them, and feels so good about their relationship.

One day, what she sees from her seat on the train shocks her. "Jess" is kissing another man! How could she jeopardize the perfect relationship that she and "Jason" have? Rachel is devastated and angry, since her own life is in a shambles, and she has idealized this couple she doesn't know. And when "Jess," whose real name is Megan, disappears the next day, Rachel is shocked—and feels that she needs to tell the police what she saw. Little by little, she gets more involved in the investigation about what happened to Megan, because she wants to do her part, and she feels that she knows something.

The thing is, though, Rachel isn't entirely reliable. She has a bit of a drinking problem—well, a big drinking problem. And sometimes she has trouble remembering what happens when she drinks. But she has this feeling she might have seen what happened to Megan. If only she could remember...

"I have lost control over everything, even the places in my head."

The Girl on the Train is the story of a woman who feels as if life has tossed her out, and she cannot regain her momentum. She is desperate to feel needed, to feel wanted, included again, so when she sees an opportunity to try and help out with the investigation into Megan's disappearance she jumps at the chance. But she doesn't count on her own lies and inadequacies being revealed, or being forced to confront her own issues.

Hawkins is a terrific writer and has written a taut, compelling book, despite the fact that many of its characters are pretty unlikeable. The book is told from multiple perspectives—Rachel, Megan, and Anna, Rachel's ex-husband's new wife. I found my mind spinning with all of the different possibilities of what happened, and what was going to happen. I came up with outlandish theories, theories that seemed they had merit, and one I hoped wouldn't be the case.

Then sadly, in my mind, Hawkins punted. She took the easy way out, and it honestly killed the book for me. I don't think I'm smarter than many people, although I guess I read a lot of thrillers, but I totally saw the ending coming. I was truly disappointed.

I'd definitely encourage you to read this book and formulate your own opinions. So many people have absolutely loved it in its entirety, and been shocked by the way everything transpires, so perhaps you will as well. I think for the most part, this is a pretty great book, and I look forward to seeing what comes next in Hawkins' career.

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