The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins

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THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train has been on my reading list since it was published in January of this year.  The book has been likened to GONE GIRL, and was discussed with great enthusiasm at the Emerging Writers Festival in May.  Everyone seems to be talking about it.  So did this humble little fiction from the UK live up to the hype?

It’s complicated.

good fiction books to read, good books, book blogs, books, book reviews, book review blogs, good fiction books, girl on a train, the girl on the train, paula hawkins, thriller booksMeet Rachel.  Rachel is struggling to cope with the end of her marriage, stuck in the monotony of her life and consumed with thoughts and plans about alcohol.  To fill time on her daily commute, Rachel has become caught up in the lives of a seemingly ideal couple, who’s house and backyard she can see from the train.  Each day she passes the house and projects onto them the ideal life that is out of her reach.

Then one day she witnesses something that shocks her.  As the secret eats away at her, she is desperate to tell somebody what she witnessed.  She decides to act, setting off a chain of events that alter the course of many lives.

The complexity of the plotting is a gem.  The Girl on the Train is told through multiple first person narration.

In many ways, the telling is quite sophisticated.  This book is a wonderful lesson for any Emerging Writer, who may be over explaining their work.  Paula Hawkins trusts her readers to figure a lot out on their own.  It wasn’t so much a twist at the end as a slow revealing of the truth.  As time slips back and forth between 2012 and 2013, characters and events  slowly reveal themselves, as the reader pieces the plot together.

The reader remains engaged as they have to actively figure out the story.  In doing so, I realised how many assumptions I made about many characters in the absence of facts.  It’s an interesting experiment in the things we make up about someone; the ways in which someone’s outward appearance directly influences our impression of their inward life.

The writing is simple and uninspiring, but perfectly embodies the characters who are telling the story.  The vocabulary is simple and the punctuation is short, sharp and keeps a cracking pace.

The thing is, and here is where the book came undone for me, the main characters in the book are not very likable.  They are negative and hopeless and not people that I would choose to spend time with.  Being inside Rachel’s head was particularly difficult and frustrating, witnessing her make mistake after mistake.  Don’t get me wrong, this is a really great book, but it can certainly alter your mood.

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN is frequently likened to the best-selling thriller GONE GIRL, to which both books share aa genre.  I didn’t finish reading Gone Girl, even though I loved it, and I didn’t read to the end of The Girl on the Train either.  Both books lost me about 30 pages from the end.

I wouldn’t say I enjoyed reading the book, it felt more like a compulsion to know the answers.  I did not marvel at the beauty of the words, which I am sure was not the intention anyway.  I consumed the book, like a bad habit.  By the end I was reading quickly, and frustrated I finally turned to the internet to know the ending so I could put the book down and move on.

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN was published in 2015 by RIVERHEAD BOOKS in the US and DOUBLEDAY in the UK.

The Girl on the Train is  PAULA HAWKIN‘s fifth and best-known novel.  Hawkings, who lives in London, worked as a journalist for fifteen years before turning her hand to creative writing.  In 2009, Paula Hawkins began writing fiction under the pen name Amy Silver.  At the time, she was writing romantic comedy. Amy Silver released four novels, none of which achieved any real breakthrough success.  The Girl on the Train was a last attempt to carve out a writing career.

The road to publishing The Girl on the Train was difficult.  The novel took Hawkin six months writing full time to complete the manuscript at a time when she was in a difficult financial situation and had to borrow money to complete the book.  Lucky she did, for The Girl on the Train has been hugely successful, translated into many languages, being read around the world.

As an Emerging writer, THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN is a wonderful publishing success story.  It’s a heroic reminder never to give up the work that you love, for you never know what your next novel will hold.  You can still make a huge success with book five, even if the first four weren’t very successful.

While the overall readership (according to Instagram) loved this book.  For me it was an interesting and engrossing read, if not an enjoyable one.  I have no doubt we will see a film and film tie-in edition of the novel released very soon.


by Meg

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  1. Pingback: Book Reviews | Meghan Brewster

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