The Girl on the Train

by Paula Hawkins

I read this book rather quickly over the past three days.  Our book group is not due to discuss it until January.  So I had better make some notes!

Wasn’t really looking forward to this book.  I generally feel a little cheated when our book group selects a much-hyped book on the bestseller lists.  I feel that if it was a book I particularly wanted to read, I would do so anyway.  And if I have seen and rejected it on the bookstalls, it’s probably because I don’t much fancy reading it.  This book, as well as The Miniaturist and Elizabeth is Missing, falls into the latter category.  These last two did not score well at book group, though they generated plenty of discussion.

Well, here goes…

The female characters in this book are, on the whole, troubled people for whom the reader develops some sympathy.  The men are less sympathetically drawn.  Scott is emotionally abusive; Tom is philanderer and also abusive; Mac (whom we don’t actually meet) is a junkie who is quite ready to let his girlfriend take full responsibility for the tragedy for which he is an least half responsible; even Kamal takes advantage of a therapist/patient situation and divulges information given to him in confidence.

The story is told through the thoughts or diaries (we are never quite sure whether the words are actually written down) of Rachel, Megan and Anna – allowing the reader to get inside the head of each of these women.

The real achievement of this book is in the unfolding of the plot, which keeps the reader guessing whodunnit (and what they did) until almost the end of the story.  As a thriller, it is masterful. The tension builds in the last half of the book after a sluggish start.  Perhaps the slow start is necessary in order for the reader to understand the problematic ‘back stories’ of both Rachel and Megan, and to being to see them both as victims, rather than just as troubled women or ‘nutcases’.

I recommend this book and give it a score of 6 or 7 out of 10.  Better than I had expected.  But I wouldn’t rush out to read the next book by this author.