Saturday, 17 January 2015

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (Transworld)

The Girl on the Train, written by Paula Hawkins, is the latest novel that I’m reviewing for this site and one of my first reads of 2015. This thriller novel is published by Transworld Books in the UK and Riverhead in the US, and is currently available to buy in both countries.

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough.

Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar.

Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…

One of my favourite movies of 2014 was David Fincher’s Gone Girl, a superb thriller that I’d recommend to anyone. Whilst I still haven’t yet read the book (something that I intend to remedy this year), when I saw that The Girl on the Train was being compared to Gone Girl, I leapt at the chance to request it when it appeared on NetGalley and as it turned out, it did not disappoint, turning out to be an excellent start to 2015 releases and something that rightly deserves the label as the next Gone Girl. It’s that good.

The Girl on the Train is an interesting thriller that will grab ahold of you and not let you go. Whilst Gone Girl raises the question that your other half might not be who you think they are, The Girl on the Train looks at your fellow human beings. At a passing glance, they look average, ordinary, mundane. People living normal lives and doing normal things. But what if they’re not? What if there’s something that they’re just not telling you? The Girl on the Train explores this concept in great detail and will make you look twice at the people on your regular commute to work/school/wherever.

This was one of those books that when I got stuck into it, I could not put it down. It’s a definition of a page-turner with that one more chapter feel lingering on the book. If you read one, you’ll want to read another. Mixed with its three unreliable narrators, (all female, all flawed), the book balances the aspect of the thriller with its developed cast. There’s Rachel, an alcoholic, and then there’s Anna and Megan, who both have interesting perks of their own. They’re certainly a welcome change of narrator to those thrillers that feature a sole male lead Detective hunting after a serial killer, and that’s in part why The Girl on the Train, despite the obvious Gone Girl comparisons, feels fresh and exciting. And above all, unpredictable, with several enthralling twists and turns.

Rachel is the main narrator of the three and the only one mentioned on the blurb, so as expected, she gets the main portion of the book, although that said it is all written in first person with plenty of time spent between her, Anna and Megan. She’s picturing the lives of these two people who she sees on the train each morning, imagining out to be better than hers. Giving them names that she knows that they can’t be their real ones and letting the story play out from there. Until something bad happens, and that’s when the book really kicks in.

Even though the ending may not be the strongest moment of the book, everything leading up to it is great. The small amount of characters works in the book’s favour and the first person narrative for all of them won’t really be confusing because the personalities are enough to distinguish who is who (also, the chapter titles are listed for each character). The blend in pace between each narrator also works, with Rachel’s moving a lot quicker than Megan’s story does. In another book, it would feel jarring and out of place, but with The Girl in the Train, Hawkins uses it to her advantage.

The Girl on the Train is a very good way to start a year, I think. Whether it remains being one of the best novels of 2015 at the year’s end remains to be seen, but it certainly delivers a good impression right out of the gate as the first novel from this year that I've read. Also as a word of advice, you'll probably get the most out of this book if you read it on the train.  

VERDICT: 8.5/10

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