Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train is Paula Hawkin's debut novel. And oh, what a debut!!

Rachel rides the train to London every day, keeping up the pretense that she she still has a job and a place to be. In fact she doesn't - her alcoholism has cost much - her husband, her job and her home. Adding salt to her wounds is the fact that the train makes at the station by her old neighbourhood. Twice a day, Rachel passes by this row of houses by the station. She often sees a couple she has named Jess and Jason in their garden and has created a fairy tale life for them - one she imagines she might have had. Then one day she sees Jess kissing someone else. And then she sees on the news that the woman she calls Jess is missing. Rachel takes her information to the police - but can't leave it be and she slowly insinuates herself into the investigation.....

The Girl on the Train is told from three different viewpoints - that of Rachel, the missing woman and Rachel's ex-husband's new wife.

But it is Rachel driving the story - and she is a deliciously unreliable narrator. She drinks to blackout and often cannot remember where she has been or what she has done. But the flashes of clarity she does have frighten her...

"Something happened, I know it did. I can't picture it, but I can feel it. I'm frightened, but I'm not sure what I'm afraid of, which just exacerbates the fear."

The missing woman also tells her story, leading up to the day she disappears. She too is an unreliable narrator, concealing her past and lying about her present.

Hawkins keeps the reader guessing as the story twists and turns, changing with every revelation, memory and action. Who is telling the truth? What did really happen? I had my suspicions as the number of pages left to read dwindled and literally couldn't put the book down until I finished. (Pick a nice lazy day to start The Girl on the Train - you won't want to do anything else)

Hawkins' depiction of alcoholism is troubling but highly effective as a plot device. I've also traveled by rail and was easily able to put myself in a seat looking out - wondering about someone else's life.

The Girl on the Train is a great psychological thriller and is absolutely recommended Read an excerpt. Dreamworks Studio has also optioned the movie rights. You can find Paula Hawkins on her website and on Twitter as well as on Facebook.


Kay said...

Yours is the second really positive review I've read of this book. I think I will need to read it soon. And what's with the unreliable narrator trend right now - or so it seems. It's effective, but I do find I spend the whole book questioning more than usual. Picking apart every statement. Don't think I could read too many of those in a row because it's kind of exhausting. :-)

Luanne said...

You're right Kay - there are a lot of unreliable narrator books out there right now. I really like not being able to predict or figure out what's going to happen. But I can see your point about exhaustion!

bermudaonion said...

I thought this book was outstanding as well!

Becca Lostinbooks said...

wow, this sounds just so great. "deliciously unreliable narrator" is the best thing you can say about a book about a girl with alcoholism.

Jonita said...

I just skimmed your review because this is currently in my TBR pile, but I can't wait to get to it! Thanks for the review!

techeditor said...

I read this, too, and I don't agree that she's deliciously unreliable. I think she's just a raging alcoholic who is delusional as a result

Riverhead is doing a great marketing job for this book, right down to its very clever cover. But, after all this hype, THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN disappointed me. While it kept my attention, it wasn't as unputdownable as claimed until the last couple of chapters. It wasn't for me. The entire book is about Rachel's alcoholic blackouts and figuring out what really happened.

Some things about this book are aggravating. For instance, during tense moments, characters, especially Rachel, bite their lips, often so hard they draw blood. I could just imagine all the people walking around with bloody mouths they had chewed.

The biggest aggravation is difficult to describe without saying too much and spoiling the story. It has to do with how everything is explained in the end. It was just too easy, convenient.