Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

 Image result for girl on the trainTHE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, a British psychological thriller by Paula Hawkins, is told by Rachel, a young business woman who rides the same commuter train every day.  While other commuters bury their thoughts in the daily paper or close their eyes for privacy and solitude, Rachel looks out at the houses near the tracks, noticing one house in particular and purposely avoiding another house only a few feet away.  A young couple lives in the first house, people Rachel has never met but for whom she has created a fantasy life, complete with names.  Rachel is sure that they are totally smitten with each other, evidenced by the embraces she has witnessed, and the warm glow of the house's lights.  Readers will quickly learn that Rachel avoids looking at the nearby house because just a few years earlier it had been her home, one she shared with a husband who now loves another.  Readers will also be alerted to Rachel's drinking, her unstable behaviors, and wild mood swings, so when she reveals that she has witnessed Jess (the name she has given the lady in the house near the tracks) in the yard being embraced by a tall dark man, someone other than her husband, you understand why Rachel is totally unsettled by the sight.  When she learns on the tellie a short time later that Jess (real name Megan) has disappeared, Rachel feels compelled to tell someone what she saw.

If you chose to read this book, set aside a day because you will not want to put it down.  It has elements similar to the widely popular GONE GIRL.  Naturally when Megan disappears, the husband is  a prime suspect and there are plenty of clues that he MAY be controlling and abusive.
When Megan herself begins to narrate some of the chapters, readers find she is complicated, reckless and with a past she tries to keep hidden.  Could she have chosen to disappear?  What is she keeping from her husband and others?  Similar to my reaction to both the husband and wife in GONE GIRL, I kept switching from suspecting one spouse to the other, and the more background info I learned, the more suspicious I was of everyone.  At times I even suspected Rachel, even though she kept professing never having met the couple.  In the end, I did guess most of the ending, but I would have been just as convinced if the book had ended in another way.

Rachel's viewpoint as a voyeur reminded me of the classic Hitchcock movie REAR WINDOW in which a wheelchair bound lawyer believes he has witnessed a murder, but no one will believe him.  Like that invalid, Rachel is not believed; and as she continues to act erratically, she is viewed as less and less reliable, even by readers.  I loved the author's use of the train -- for so many people, it is an unavoidable pattern to their day, something that uses time but adds nothing of value to their lives.  To Rachel, it was the last cord to a life lost.  If she gave up being THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, she would finally lose herself.


  1. Another British movie along the same themes, "The Lady Vanishes" was on PBS Masterpiece.

    For me, PBS is a good bet, the program might not be a best seller but it is always worth the time.

  2. I have started following most of the Masterpiece shows and several others on PBS. Have also been finding some of the ones I had missed on dvd through the library system.