Book Review – The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

First published, 2015

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

“It’s going to be a lovely weekend, that’s what they’re telling us. Beautiful sunshine, cloudless skies. In the old days we might have driven to Corly Wood with a picnic and the papers, spent all afternoon lying on a blanket in dappled sunlight, drinking wine. We might have barbecued out back with friends, or gone to the Rose and sat in the beer garden, faces flushing with sun and alcohol as the afternoon went on, weaving home, arm in arm, falling asleep on the sofa.
“Beautiful sunshine, cloudless skies, no one to play with, nothing to do. Living like this, the way I’m living at the moment, is harder in the summer when there is so much daylight, so little cover of darkness, when everyone is out and about, being flagrantly, aggressively happy.”
p17, Rachel, The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

An utterly addictive read, The Girl On The Train tells, in journal form, the story of three women.

Rachel: the alcoholic ex-wife of Tom. Rachel has been secretly unemployed, mostly drunk to the point of blacking out and drunk-dialling her former husband, for some time. Yet, she still takes the commuter train into the City every day just for a glimpse of her old house, her old life, the woman who took her place – the new Mrs. Watson, and the golden couple a few doors down. But with the world seen through blurry eyes, can Rachel really trust herself?

Anna: the new Mrs. Watson. Married to Tom and sick to death of Rachel’s whining and late night calls, Anna has everything she ever wanted in the form of the handsome husband she rescued from a miserable marriage, the perfect baby girl and a huge house in a nice area. It’s a mite close to the trains and she’s fed up with the sounds of the rails on the tracks, and she had hoped that Rachel would just shuffle off with the implosion of her marriage but, other than that, everything is as it should be. But having snagged her husband through adultery, can she ever really trust him?

Megan: the golden wife from a few doors down. Her life is far more messy than Rachel can see from a passing train but her husband loves her, other men desire her, and everything on the surface is okay. But when Megan goes missing, who will discover the truth about where, and indeed who, she is?

An incredible story, with incisive dialogue, clever characters and an epic conclusion. I showed the film with Emily Blunt a couple of years ago at Movie Night at the Legion.

Emily Blunt in The Girl On The Train (2016)

It was the Monday the film came out on DVD, I hadn’t seen it at the cinema; I’d just seen the trailers and thought it looked awesome. I remember being shocked enough by the ending (when I watched it through in the afternoon to find a suitable interval point) that I warned my Movie Nighters before I pressed ‘play’ for the second half. I thought they might want to look away. They didn’t. They loved it.

I expected squeamishness and small-scale writhing.

One woman clapped.

I was surprised and never looked at her the same way again, but the book is exquisite. The ending of the novel has more of a run-up, I suppose, so it doesn’t seem quite so shocking as it is on screen. A great story, really well-told.