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Book Review: Paula Hawkins' 'The Girl on the Train'


There’s been a lot of talk about this book. It’s a New York Times Bestseller, rumours are flying it will be made into a film, and funnily enough, I often see people reading this book on the train. So what’s this book all about?

It’s a fictional tale of an alcoholic. Rachel is suffering, but it’s not a tale of her recovery. It’s a tale of murder. Rachel’s life is miserable. She is a broken woman, cheated on and divorced by her husband who married the woman he cheated on her with. If that’s not painful enough, they have a child. Something she could never have. 

Rachel is either reeling from her broken marriage or constantly focused on buying more alcohol to drown her sorrows. Everyone has suffered from a bad breakup, but what she goes through is truly awful and you can practically feel her agony seeping through the pages. Readers are forced to go through and relive her pain as she attempts to deal with her issues but fails repeatedly. Her narrative reveals what it’s really like to have a serious drinking problem, where it pervades your every thought.

Her only solace is watching and imagining the happy lives of others, particularly a young couple she watches on the early morning train into London. She affectionately names them Jess and Jason. Remember that she has never met this couple and would never expect to. They are complete strangers, except in her head.

But when she spies something amiss, Rachel knows something is seriously wrong. Who can she talk to?

She knows full well that if she approaches the authorities she’ll be dismissed as a nut. Rachel cannot help herself. In the midst of her downward spiral of drunken binges, she goes beyond the average citizen’s sense of duty and fully involves herself in the situation surrounding her couple. As the case becomes highly publicized she gets more involved, at great risk to herself.

The most drunken detective you’ll ever read about, Rachel perseveres, eventually learning more than the police. But she almost forgets that there is a killer on the loose, and she’s perilously close to finding out too much.

I won’t ruin this story. It takes a while to pick up the pace, but it does and gets more intense toward the end. The author did keep me guessing; I had no idea who the culprit was until the big reveal.

My only negative points-- the narrator changes a few times, and it can be difficult to remember who is talking. Sometimes authors can create characters we love to hate; but here the author gave readers just enough information to dislike almost everyone we encountered in the story (in my opinion).

I personally read for pleasure and to escape. I’m like Hollywood, I like my stories to have happy endings and for the guy to get the girl. Here I had no one to root for. 

However, if you like a thriller that will make you uncomfortable, read this book. This dark tale will leave you thinking about it long after you've put it down. 


Review by Erin L Johnson

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