karen's Reviews > The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
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really liked it
bookshelves: free-from-work

I once read a book by a former alcoholic where she described giving oral sex to two different men, men she'd just met in a restaurant on a busy London high street. I read it and I thought, I'm not that bad. This is where the bar is set.

oh, yeah - this one is going to be a must-read for those people looking to find their next Gone Girl experience. it's an incredibly fast-paced and engrossing psychological thriller, and i was on board as soon as i read the editor's bit of ARC-copy, even though i know that writing those things is part of the job and not at all unbiased. but it's hard not to be swayed when you read:

Within days of my introducing the manuscript in March, people from every department were regularly pulling me aside to testify to how much they loved the read, how they couldn't put it down. At a recent meeting, a colleague who was twelve pages from the end was secretly reading them under the table because she could not stop. Another had the manuscript propped up next to her phone so she could read between calls, and last week in the elevator, people around me suddenly started competing over who'd read it fastest, and who was more surprised by the ending. You know you have something special when it becomes watercooler talk for months on end.

it would take a very stubbornly cynical person to see that as anything other than genuine enthusiasm.

and the book definitely delivers. it is an absolute page-turner with a number of unreliable narrators ranging from the self-deluded to the spotty memory of the blackout drunk.

i am too busy reading on my daily commute to notice my fellow passengers unless they are smelly/behaving in an unstable manner (frequently), or exceptionally attractive (MUCH less frequently), but apparently this is a thing that commuters do - notice their fellow travelers, making up stories about their lives, speculating about what they do when they're not in the in-between moments of their day. and rachel does it more than most. rachel is blisteringly lonely, drowning the sorrows of her failed marriage with grim determination and canned gin and tonics and endless bottles of wine. she has lost her job because of her perpetual drunkenness, but rather than tell her flatmate, she keeps taking the train into london every day, pretending to go to work, but actually just getting drunk in various places, and happily fantasizing about the young couple she watches every day from her train window; a couple who live a few doors down from her old house, where her ex-husband tom still resides with his new wife and baby girl.

still reeling from tom's infidelity to her, she nonetheless would love to be back with him, and in this golden couple she observes and imagines, calling them "jess and jason," she sees the life she could have had with tom. one day, while commuting/gazing voyeuristically, she witnesses "jess" on her front lawn with another man, in what appears to be a romantic clinch. she is outraged at this display, as personally offended as if the infidelity were being committed against herself. shortly after this episode, she learns that "jess," actually named megan, has disappeared, and feeling connected to this couple she has never actually met, she insinuates herself into the investigation, meeting with both the police and megan's husband, actual name scott.

the story is told from three perspectives: rachel's, megan's, and tom's new wife anna, and covers all the traditional viewpoints of the typical domestic drama: the jilted lover, the other woman, the cheating wife. all three of these women are simultaneously sympathetic and repellent, which is tricky to pull off. and as for the mystery of megan's disappearance itself, well that path splits and splits again in a wonderful head-spinning journey where not a single character avoids suspicion (except MAYBE tom and anna's infant daughter); i think there are seven characters in total who appear to be the culprit at one point or another, and each seems as plausible as the next. it is a fantastic ride, and hawkins does a great job with both the mystery elements and the character development, with great attention to detail, and fully established backstories and motivations. even when you cringe at some of the choices, they completely make sense for the character. it is a lot of fun, and terribly addictive. much better than a meeting, i kid you not.

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Reading Progress

Started Reading
September 26, 2014 – Shelved
September 26, 2014 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-50 of 114 (114 new)


Debbie "DJ" I cannot possibly be the first to comment? Love your review, can't wait to read!


karen hahah this is one of those reviews i wrote but didn't post to the feed yet, so it was sseeeeecret! you will definitely like this book - it's all fun psych suspense the way you like!


Suzanne Top review, wow!!!!


karen my secrets are not safe! i am breached! (:

thank you!


message 5: by Jason (new) - added it

Jason Koivu I generally don't like books that are, ya know, new and exciting, but you've gone and tantalized me, you have!


Debbie "DJ" When did you ever think you could keep a secret? :)


message 7: by Armand (new) - added it

Armand Um, can you give me the name of this former alcoholic's book or maybe the name of this restaurant?


message 8: by Kiera (new)

Kiera buying it!


karen hahah she never mentioned the name of the book - sorry!! maybe just wander around london and you will get lucky?


message 10: by Erin (new) - rated it 3 stars

Erin Can't wait!


message 11: by Casey (new) - added it

Casey Yeah, adding this. Great review!


message 12: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy Adding this! Thanks Karen!


karen awesome! it's a fun fun read!


message 14: by Joya (new) - added it

Joya UGH!!! I want to read it nooooooooow!!!!


message 15: by Paquita Maria (last edited Sep 29, 2014 10:48AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paquita Maria Sanchez So, how have we not giggled together about this title yet?


karen oh, no!! did we accidentally get growed up?


Paquita Maria Sanchez Lordy, I sure hope not. Testing, testing: Boooooooobs! Peepee weewee winkle dinkle doo! Pooooop! Poopoopoodadoodadoopoo!

Nope, still makes me laugh. WHEW, I was worried.


karen someone mentioned that captain underpants was "exploding" in sales, and i giggled at "exploding underpants" during my meeting earlier, so i'm also fine.


message 19: by Laima (last edited Sep 29, 2014 05:38PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Laima I want to read this one - love your review!


message 20: by TL (new) - rated it 5 stars

TL Excellent review once again Miss Karen :)


karen thanks, guys!


Arah-Lynda Enticing review karen. I'm in.


karen good good good good good !!


message 24: by Dana (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dana I just finished this and loved it! I totally agree with you about how tricky all the characters are. I hated Anna during Rachel's narrative and hated Rachel during Anna's narrative :P


karen exactly! very rocky, the loyalties...


message 26: by Bill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bill Sold!


message 27: by Alan (new)

Alan not that it matters but I read a story in last year's Best British Short Stories with a similar premise - someone gets obsessed with a particular house glimpsed from atrain and insinuates themselves into a mystery surrounding the residents thereof; plus the sacked worker who continues to commute is like Mr Phillips (John Lanchester) - still I suppose there are only so many plots and what counts is the writing. Probably will read.. thanks Karen.


karen do you remember who that story was by?? because i would read it!

the sacked worker thing is definitely not new. in my country, it's basically shorthand for "the breakdown of the american dream" and all.

but that's more of a mechanism that anything the book dwells on, it's just a way to give the character free time and a sort of secret life of her own which screws up her own alibi and trustworthiness.


message 29: by Alan (new)

Alan hang on...


message 30: by Alan (new)

Alan well it was in this book: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2...
and I'm pretty sure it was Christopher Priest's Unfinished Business, but I haven't got the book here (at work), and I think my daughter borrowed it..


karen okay! i will track it down, thanks!


message 32: by Alan (new)

Alan I'll let you know for sure later..


message 33: by Sid (new)

Sid Wow, your opening paragraph grabbed me big time. Right up there with the best openers of all time. So wish you named the book. It would probably be come a best seller quickly! thanks


karen no, the quote is from The Girl on the Train. italics. the book is never named by the character and may not exist in the real world.


Laima Karen! Creamy Chicken Noodle was crowned our latest Soup Czar. Soupfest was over the top this year.


karen hahaahaha all hail creamy chicken!!! i made some sort of chicken/lemon/asparagus thing last night. just in time for this "blizzard." which was supposed to start 4 hours ago. be on time, weather!!!


Laima Always be prepared with food! Are you at home today? There is something coming - woke up with a headache at 2 am.


karen today is my first day in the new office!! we have been promised muffins! i'm not missing that!


Laima It's snowing like crazy here! Enjoy your muffins. I have Tim Hortons in my building at work. Good enough .


message 40: by Miriam (new)

Miriam karen wrote: "no, the quote is from The Girl on the Train. italics. the book is never named by the character and may not exist in the real world."

I thought that was clear enough, but apparently many people think you're an alcoholic one step away from giving dual bjs for booze money. Don't people read your profile? You have a job!

And soup! But no storm? Is that good or disappointing? I know you like snow.


karen no, it is snowing now.... we'll see how much they exaggerated the accumulation later. it's already dropped to 18-24 inches from 20-30.


message 42: by Miriam (new)

Miriam 2 feet is plenty, right?


Laima 2 feet is enough to cause some traffic accidents but not to close down the city. Snow days happen when you have 4 to 5 feet and up - when you can't see anything but white outside. Those are the best days of winter.


karen i want 5 feet!!!!


Kasia Im all ready planning on working from home tomorrow, aka more reading time, I'm 68% done with this crazy story :)


karen oh, god - this is a PERFECT snowy day read


message 47: by Ace (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ace Varkey I loved your review. I also love it when there are many choices for 'whodunit.' She gets it so right, doesn't she?


karen yeah - it's a super-strong debut. more, please!


message 49: by Izzy (new)

Izzy Spear Received the Kindle. Fun all about books etc. Followed setup and quickly was reading your review. Wow, you should write a book!


Sally fantastic review. Must go and read this now.
Thanks


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