The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
Published: Jan 2015, by Black Swan
Length: 409 pages
Genre: Crime Thriller
My Rating: 4 Stars
I want to start out by saying that I don't usually read many crime fiction novels at all. I generally find myself slightly bored by the arguable 'repetitive' nature of books in this genre, but then find myself unable to sleep afterwards through sheer terror of being murdered in the middle of the night... So over the years, I've learnt to avoid these kinds of books!
However, every now and then, a crime thriller comes along and really appeals to me, so they make quite a nice change to my usual romance or fantasy books.
The Girl on the Train did just that. I had been drawn in to the story through the huge amount of hype surrounding it, so my expectations were actually quite high before I read it. I was expecting great things from this book!
The Girl on the Train centres around a young alcoholic named Rachel. Recently divorced and looking for a new purpose in the world, Rachel catches a train- the same train each day. Over time, she begins to notice the people living in the houses through which the train passes. She looks in on their seemingly perfect lives with envy, wishing her life could be like those she sees from the train. She even beings to feel like she knows the people living in the houses by the train. But then, one day, she sees something shocking. She's a witness for a mere few seconds while the train stops, but that was all it took...
Now everything has changed and Rachel is finally given the chance to become part of their lives, just like she had wanted. They will soon see that she is not just the girl on the train...
This book really surprised me. I was not expecting to enjoy it as much as did. It did everything I would expect a book of this nature to do; it was clever and entertaining, the writing was gripping, and the storyline creeped me!
Due to its length, it was quite a quick read and I felt that the writing of the novel really did it justice; it did not drag on and maintained quite a high level of creepiness throughout, which I enjoyed.
I had not read any of Paula Hawkins' other books before The Girl on the Train, so I wasn't sure what to expect in terms of writing style and complexity, but I was pleasantly surprised! The style of writing was intense and really fit with the theme of the story.
I also really liked the characters shown in this novel. They were realistic, which is always good for a book like this. At the same time, they were all slightly creepy and seemed dangerous in their own unique ways, which I enjoyed. I really liked the aspect of Rachel being an alcoholic- this made for a really interesting narrator as you were never really able to trust what she was saying as she didn't trust herself some of the times. I thought that all the other characters were vivid and had a 'more-than-what-they-seem' sense to them. One issue I did have regarding the characters was the fact that I personally didn't feel that they were described enough in a physical sense. Descriptions were there, however, they just weren't there enough for me to feel like I know the characters and know exactly what they look like. This wasn't a huge issue as I still really enjoyed the book, but it just would have been nice to have more descriptions.
The overall storyline of The Girl on the Train was an enjoyable one. It was twisted, it was complicated, and it was dark, which is great for a thriller like this. It did take a little while for the 'main' story to actually kick in; there was a lot of back story and explaining to be done, but once the thriller-ey part of the book began, it was good. There was a stage in this book where I suspected everyone for the crime carried out; I even suspected the victim herself! This is one of the downsides to having so many unreliable characters, all of which may have a reason to commit the crime, whether that's through jealousy, intentional harm, psychopathic nature, or drunkenness. I enjoyed the fact that it was hard to decipher what was really going on and that there was no clear suspect until the resolution of the novel, but at the same time, this was something that annoyed me a bit too, and was probably the reason I didn't award this book the full 5 stars.
When I had reached the end of the book, I wanted it to reach a point where the 'assaulter' was revealed and I would be able to say "Of course! I should have known!"
But it never really did. Obviously the book came to a resolution and all was revealed, but there had been no hints throughout the book that it was that particular character. I would have had exactly the same reaction if another character turned out to be the assaulter in the end. The ending was just a little bit of a flop in the way that the reader could have had suspicions, but I don't think there was enough information on anybody for them to be able to work it out or even guess properly themselves. Some of the motives didn't make sense in my head and I didn't think the reasons were explained as well as they could have been.
And even by the end of the novel, there were aspects that didn't make sense to me. There were parts that seemed completely irrelevant to the story, and others that left me thinking, "Why on earth did that character do that if they were completely innocent all along?"
I suppose that aspect of it made it more realistic and closer to what a real crime would be like, but it just left for a bit of a confusing finish to what would have been a fantastic book. At the end of the day, I did still really enjoy it, but it just wasn't quite as polished as it could have been.
I would recommend The Girl on the Train to fans of Before I Go to Sleep and Gone Girl and to anyone who is just starting to get into crime thrillers, as it was a great story and I did really enjoy it, but I also feel that if you read a lot of crime thrillers anyway, this wasn't really anything completely new or original, so it may not be enjoyed quite as much.
I would be interested to have a look at some of Paula Hawkins' other books too, to see how they compare to this one.
So, have you read The Girl on the Train? If so, I'd love to hear your thoughts!!
Thank you for reading and I hope to be back soon with another review!