The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the TrainThe Girl on the Train is my favorite kind of book: the kind that you just have to read all in one day because it’s impossible to put down. It was on my top ten list of most anticipated 2015 releases, and it definitely didn’t disappoint.

Rachel rides the same commuter trains every morning and evening: the 8:04 into London, and the 5:56 back home. Despite having lost her job months ago, she continues to ride the train so her well-meaning but somewhat aggressively kind roommate doesn’t know she’s unemployed. Every morning, she passes a row of Victorian houses, watching for her favorite residents, who she has nicknamed “Jess” and “Jason.” She doesn’t know them, but she sees them many mornings having breakfast on their terrace, and she envies their happiness—happiness she has lost.

Until one day, everything changes. Jess—who Rachel learns is actually named Megan Hipwell—has gone missing. Her picture is all over the news. And Rachel might have seen something that would help the police find her. But will anyone take the word of a woman who pretends to commute to work every morning when she really spends most of her days drinking? If the police are to believe her—if she is to believe herself—Rachel must first face the demons that are determined to consume her.

So…this book was incredible.

Let me say it again: This. Book. Was. Incredible.

I read the entirety of it in one day. It’s not super long, but it’s not short, either, clocking in at 323 pages. Not something that I would usually accomplish in one day. But I couldn’t go to sleep without knowing the ending. It hooked me from the very beginning and kept me hooked right up until the last sentence. It was that good.

The Girl on the Train is hard to talk about without spoilers; there’s so much I want to discuss—Tom! Anna! Gin and tonic in a can!—but I don’t want to give anything away. (Also, gin and tonic in a can? I’ve never heard of such a thing. Is it a British thing? UPDATE: Gin and tonic in a can is, indeed, a British thing, as confirmed by Ms Hawkins herself):

And I think most of the things I would want to talk about would involve spoilers. Let’s just say that The Girl on the Train kept me guessing up until the very end. I thought I knew what happened, but other things kept happening that made me think, “No, it couldn’t be…” but in the end I was actually right! Score one for me.

The thing that’s so great about The Girl on the Train is that it’s not just a straightforward “whodunit” mystery; it’s an expertly woven tale about the power of memory—and the power of self-deception. Remembering—truly remembering, and not just remembering what you want to remember—is an omnipresent theme. It’s a very human tendency to sugarcoat or simply repress memories we would prefer weren’t part of our personal narrative; it’s much easier to lock them away in The Vault of La La La I’m Not Listening, or squash them into The Trash Compactor of That Definitely Didn’t Happen So Why Am I Even Thinking About It, than to face them and reconcile them with how you see yourself…and, maybe even more importantly, how you see others. Paula Hawkins really takes this theme and runs with it in The Girl on the Train, and the result is a book that might convince you to sift through your own relationships and memories, dust a few off, and truly examine them instead of hiding them away.

Like many new thrillers in the past few years, The Girl on the Train has been compared to Gone Girl. I loved Gone Girl, but the incessant comparisons are getting a little tiresome. Gone Girl was great, yes, but using it as the stick by which all other new thrillers are measured does both Gone Girl and those new thrillers a disservice. The great thing about books is that they’re all different, and comparing every new up-and-coming book to one that just happened to be really good can be irritating and even misleading. In this particular case, I am firmly of the mind that you shouldn’t read The Girl on the Train because you want to read “the next Gone Girl”; you should read it because it’s awesome.


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