Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Book Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train

Author: Paula Hawkins
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Date of Publication: January 13, 2015
Pages: 336

     This story is a really good one.  It is told from alternating perspectives of three female narrators.  The first is Rachel Watson, the titular girl on the train, who is also an alcoholic wallowing in the misery of a recent divorce from her husband Tom.  The second is Anna, Tom's new wife who was also "the other woman" in the end-game of Tom and Rachel's marriage.  The third is Megan Hipwell who lives four doors down from Tom and Anna.  Rachel's daily commute to London on the train passes her old row house, now occupied by her former husband and his new wife.  While staring at her former home she becomes fixated by Megan Hipwell.  Rachel imagines an idyllic fantasy life for Megan, even making up names for her and her husband.   Megan's husband is absent quite a bit and one day Rachel thinks she sees Megan on her deck with a paramour.

     The novel goes into high gear when Megan disappears.  Rachel thinks she knows the key to her disappearance and involves herself in the police investigation as well as intrudes on the private lives of the other characters.

     Conflict is everywhere in this story which heightens the suspense and tension.  Rachel has obvious problems with Tom and his wife and develops even more issues with Megan's husband, the police and others.  The author uses the three narrators to tell key events from different points of view, each ratcheting up the mystery and strain between the main characters.  Rachel's alcoholism poses difficulties at every turn, but her blackouts provide a convenient reason for holes in the story and gaps in the reader's knowledge. 

     Most readers will see the resolution chapters before it occurs, but the story is so well written and clever that it is an exceptionally good read.  It has been compared to Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl but I think The Girl on the Train is a much better novel.  The characters are not nearly so stereotypical, none of the characters are particularly unlikable (at least until the very end) and this novel's setting in and around London is much more interesting.  To me, this story is reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock's classic movie "Rear Window" and that is indeed a good thing.  I have read a lot of mysteries and thrillers and this is one of the most fun ones I have read in a long time.

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