The Girl on the Train Book Review

The Girl on the Train, written by Paula Hawkins, is a wildly popular book that burst onto the scene in August 2015. It followed what I like to call Gone Girl-mania, following the wild success of Gillian Flynn’s novel and the even more popular movie. Worldwide, the book sold an estimated 11 million copies and dominated bestseller lists for months. A much-hyped film starring Emily Blunt was recently released and, according to movie critics, did not live up to expectations.


After devouring Gone Girl myself, I was eager to get another taste of the thrilling psychological darkness to which Flynn introduced the world. The Girl on the Train was lauded as the next Gone Girl, so it seemed like the perfect book to take along on a spring-break vacation. This was true.


The plot alternates between the points of view of three women, but the main character is Rachel Watson, a London-based 30-something woman whose alcoholism has caused her to lose everything good in her life — her husband, job, dignity – and experience blackouts. After the inevitable heavy nights of drinking, Rachel wakes up with only faint memories of what she did the night before — harassing her ex-husband and his new family is a common occurrence — but cannot fully piece together what happened.


Even though she is unemployed, Rachel continues to take the train to her workplace every day so her roommate doesn’t find out. While commuting, Rachel begins to notice a young couple living in one of the houses along the tracks, and soon becomes obsessed with catching glimpses of them. She dubs them “Jess and Jason” and frequently comes up with scenarios about their lives.


One morning, things take a severe turn for the worse. Rachel wakes up injured and bleeding and is unable to recollect a single thing from the night before. That day on the news, the main story is that the woman from the tracks, “Jess,” has gone missing. Somehow, Rachel knows she is involved.


Rachel begins to investigate the disappearance of “Jess,” lying to appear as though she was personally connected to “Jess” in order to get more information. However, Rachel digs herself into a deeper and deeper hole as realizations from that horrible night come to light.


Hawkins does an excellent job with describing the points of view of three very different characters. Rachel’s alcoholism is depicted with brutal honesty — I found it almost frustrating to read about Rachel’s constant cycles of promising to become sober and then reaching for the bottle every night. It can be uncomfortable to read because it’s realistic, and Hawkins was smart to include every detail.


In my opinion The Girl on the Train didn’t quite come close to achieving the masterpiece that was Gone Girl, but it was certainly worthy of comparison. The mystery is gripping, the characters are well-written, and while the beginning was a little slow, things picked up and I found the ending worth sticking around for.


I would recommend The Girl on the Train to anyone who can appreciate a good mystery and some psychological twists. It’s not really a heavy book — I didn’t spend much time afterwards thinking about it like I did with Gone Girl. If you’re looking for a fun, gripping book that you can use to while away some time, then The Girl on the Train is for you.