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[836] The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

1carered

“Hallowness: that I understand. I’m starting to believe that there isn’t anything you can do to fix it. That’s what I’ve taken from the therapy sessions: the holes in your life are permanent. You have to grow around them, like tree roots around concrete; you mold yourself through the gaps.”

The Girl on the Train is a fairly well-crafted thriller that revolves around the daily delusion of one woman, Rachel, who has been divorced and dismissed from fer job. She is the girl on the train who takes her mind off her beleaguered life by imagining the lives of others. Specifically, the lives of “Jess and Jason” who live at the house near the railway signal where her train stops every morning. To her they seem to live up to the exemplary marriage she had always dreamed of—until one morning on which Rachel sees something the completely shatters that image.

The book is full of secrets—everyone has them. The narrative makes up of those from three women, who are, between an alcoholic, a liar, and a cheat, all unreliable. They are also entangled in relationships that are gradually revealed. These little mysteries, personal secrets that exist outside of what we see on the surface propel the plot, which delves into the timeless question of how much can you really know a person. As Rachel is pulled into the lives of these people for whom she invents life details, she is restless to find out about their secrets. She probes and tries to recall exactly what happened on the fateful night the victim disappeared. She is prone to blackout and drunk dialling. The memory loss prompt means a blurry repetition of images redolent throughout the pages—blood, an underpass, a blue dress, and a man with red hair, all jumble in her mind.

I give credits to Hawkins for the bold move to create a flawed female lead. Her alcoholic lifestyle discredits her testimony. She wobbles in misery and the aftermath of a failed marriage, but she is quite magnetic in her occasional spite. She is more sympathetic than the missing Meagan, and Anna, the wife of her ex-husband. Hawkins juggles perspectives intentionally full of blind spots with great skill, building up a suspense along with empathy for an unusual central character that doesn’t immediately grab with the reader.

336 pp. Riverhead Books. [Read|Skim|Toss] [Buy|Borrow]

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6 Responses

  1. I enjoyed this book, even though there were times that I wanted to shake Rachel for her bad decision making.

  2. I read this with Gone Girl because I received a copy of Fiona Barton’s The Widow, which was compared to both (well, along with a dozen dozen other books, of course!), and I did prefer Paula Hawkins’ novel of the trio. Nonetheless, I’ve been told that The Silent Wife is better than all three (and didn’t receive a fraction of the attention) so I’m looking forward to that one. Have you seen or are you planning to see either of the films?

    • I loved The Silent Wife, and it’s too bad A. Harrison had passed away. The story has worked up so much suspense that really pushed me on the edge. I read The Silent Wife all in one sitting on the beach in Thailand. It’s one of the best in the genre.

  3. Great review. Im looking forward to reading this soon.

  4. I couldn’t stomach all of the ridiculous coincidences that were a part of this book, but I ended up liking it quite a lot, but for very different reasons than almost everybody else. Rachel’s redemptive story was a struggle and I loved that she ended up saving the day, if you will.

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