The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins


Rachel is struggling. Her husband left her for another woman, she’s lost her job, and she’s an alcoholic. Every day, she takes the train into London to maintain the appearance of going to work, and every day, she passes her former home that her ex-husband now shares with his new wife and daughter. A few doors down from them lives a couple that Rachel’s never met, though she fantasizes about the perfection of their lives – until one day, when she sees something abnormal. Now, the woman from that house is missing, and because of Rachel’s alcohol problems, the police don’t believe her story when she comes forward.

I don’t believe I was as in love with this book as everyone else seems to be. Sure, it was fast-paced and demanded to be read. Most thrillers are that way, though. I enjoyed the story well enough. I never wanted to stop reading. In the end, though, I just felt tired and vaguely sick. Part of that is because I read it too fast – I’m not big into fast-paced, demand-to-be-read, can’t-put-it-down books – but another big part of it had to do with the characters in this book.

There was no one here that was likable. I remember people saying things like that about Gone Girl, so when I decided to read Gone Girl, I went in knowing this in advance. Maybe that’s just a thing these days, and thrillers are normally about very unlikable people? I don’t read enough of them to know, but now that I look back, I think just about every thriller I’ve read in the last few years has followed this same pattern. Especially psychological thrillers. And I don’t like reading about a bunch of people I can’t care about in any way. Even if someone is unlikable, I want to be able to root for them.

Similarly, the whole book felt…not predictable. Predictable is not the right word. I didn’t guess ahead of time who the killer would be. But it didn’t surprise me when the killer’s identity had been revealed. It wouldn’t have surprised me if any of these characters had been the killer, or even if the book had gone the way of Gone Girl (which I had guessed in the first first pages). I wanted there to be something unique, something different from other thrillers and murder-mysteries, but gaslighting and hidden domestic violence and sordid affairs are all so…commonplace in these kinds of books. That isn’t to say the book wasn’t well-written. It was, or I wouldn’t have continued reading it. But by the time I got to the end, it felt like every other thriller I’d read, and when I went to draft this review the next day, I couldn’t even remember the characters’ names.

I hate sounding this negative about a book. It wasn’t a bad book. It was well-written, and exactly what it claimed to be. I think I’m personally just not real enamored of thrillers in general, and I probably ought to stop expecting to be when I go into them. They often leave me cold and bogged down, with a bad taste in my mouth. So please don’t take my word about this. Many people adore this book, and probably have something more useful to say about it than I do.

About Amanda

Agender empty-nester filling my time with cats, books, fitness, and photography. She/they.
This entry was posted in 2015, Adult, Prose and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins

  1. Meg says:

    I’ll admit to just skimming for the moment because I do want to read this one, too, but I can relate to reading too quick and having a book make you vaguely nauseous! And a whole host of unlikeable characters makes a novel tough for me. Still, I hate being out of the loop . . . will see if I can get my hands on this one eventually!


    • Amanda says:

      I felt the same way re: being out of the loop with Gone Girl and eventually picked it up knowing I probably wouldn’t like it. (Though it wasn’t bad, in the end.)


  2. Laurie C says:

    I skimmed the middle of your review too, because I haven’t written my own yet, although I may never get to it at this rate! I agree with your last two paragraphs completely and felt the same way. SPOILER ALERT***********************************I had to hurry and read it right after it came out to avoid spoilers, but it was kind of annoying the way so much was withheld from the reader. And I guessed the twist, because there was no way to avoid hearing that there’s a twist. 😦


    • Amanda says:

      Funny – I hadn’t heard there was a twist at all! Somehow I seem able to stay away from spoilers a lot of the time. Probably because I tend to skip everything that anyone says about a book once my interest is piqued.


  3. Trisha says:

    I only skimmed this review as I have this one sitting right next to me right now on the end table. I will read it soon, and then come back to your review.


  4. Shaina says:

    Bummer this one didn’t work. I’m with you on wanting to feel a connection to the characters, even if they aren’t terribly likeable people. I’m experiencing this problem now with the Southern Reach trilogy. The premise is super weird and interesting, but I’m not really rooting for any of the characters and it makes the story difficult to follow at times.

    I hope your next read is better! Probably shouldn’t be a thriller. 😉


  5. kay says:

    “Similarly, the whole book felt…not predictable. Predictable is not the right word. I didn’t guess ahead of time who the killer would be. But it didn’t surprise me when the killer’s identity had been revealed.”

    Oh! I enjoyed the book more than you did, but this is such a great description of what the reveal felt like to me. Well, I did guessthe killer, but I had a few other guesses which wouldn’t have surprised me either. I think the author tried so hard to keep the ending mysterious that she simply kept too much from the readers.


  6. Pingback: Final Girls, by Riley Sager | The Zen Leaf

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