The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins: Book Review

the girl on the train paula hawkins book review
The Girl on the Train Book Cover The Girl on the Train
Paula Hawkins
Adult Fiction Thriller, Mystery
Riverhead Books
January 13, 2015

The debut psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people's lives.

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

Paula Hawkins took something as customary as a train ride and turned it into an epic thriller with her debut novel, The Girl on the Train. At first, I was reasonably skeptical about picking this one up with all the Gone Girl comparisons it’s been given. As you know, Gone Girl is one of my favorite books of all time and is solely responsible for getting me back into reading. But much like The Silent WifeThe Girl on the Train lives up to its hype and then some—Hawkins’ story holds the same addictive, page-turning quality as both Gone Girl and The Silent Wife but it’s also a complete standalone, too!

After reading this book, I’m very convinced that I’ve found my niche when it comes to reading fiction. The troubled marriage and relationship tropes just do it for me, and I think it has something to do with the way character’s respond to adversity. After reading Gone Girl, it really startled me to know the extent of which some people will go to exact revenge on the one’s who’ve wronged them, even if that means someone has to die in the process. The same can be said about The Girl on the Train.


This was a book that beaconed me at all times throughout the night and midmorning; it was actually like a breath of fresh air to read a novelist’s debut and find that it doesn’t intentionally try to model itself after other works, or at least not in an obvious way. Hawkins’ work is fearless, confident and is written so very, very good!

Much like Gone Girl, this book was fucking crazy and filled with unlikable characters (another thing I am really beginning to like about these stories). I didn’t see any of the twists in this book coming at all, and Hawkins’ freehand ability to give such complex identities to her characters is really nice because it didn’t feel like they blended into one another. Rachel, Anna, and Meagan are all troubled women with their own demons, but somehow they are not the same. Or are they?

I felt as though Rachel was the most challenging character to relate to but she was also the most honest and I found myself rooting for her a lot of the book. Her being a drunkard all the time is temporarily annoying until you realize she’s actually quite the innocent bystander. I couldn’t help but despise Anna and Meagan, but then again their fates are more telling of why cheating never wins you anything.

Also, I don’t know about you all but I really enjoyed the fact that Rachel was an unreliable narrator. The fact that we watch her slip further and further down the rabbit hole of alcoholism makes her that much more of a champion when we witness her reemergence. Personally, I don’t think this story could have functioned properly without the inclusion of Rachel’s debilitating mind state and her faulty behavior. There are too many things to be said about how amazing this book was, and to be honest I don’t have the bandwidth to remember everything I loved about this book.


What makes this such a stellar book is that it is not like Gone Girl, and that’s because it doesn’t try to be. THAT is what makes this book just as fucking amazing!

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Paris Close
the authorParis Close
Founding Editor. Give me Gillian Flynn or give me death.