Picking the right book for my inaugural weekly review column was a tricky task. Deciding on a genre, author, and even a period was difficult. My English background has given me a vast amount of material to work with. However, I don’t want to make this weekly review a rambling literature analysis. Instead, I want to provide a short, tightly focused review of relevant books.
The Girl on the Train has elevated Paula Hawkins into a major player in the mystery and thriller genre; a book that broke hardcover book sales records set by The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown. The novel was also a worthy successor to Gone Girl as the next big mega-hit thriller.
The book follows our protagonist Rachel, who has an alcohol problem. She is fired from her job due to her unpredictable behavior, but to keep this news from her roommate, she continues to take the same train she had to work every day for appearance sake. She has a volatile relationship with her ex-husband Tom, his new wife Anna, and their baby Evie.
Rachel also develops an obsession with a couple who lives near Tom in her old neighborhood, as they are always outside and visible from the train. She fantasizes about them, making up names for them (Jess and Jason) and casting them as the ideal perfect couple. However, one day she sees Jess kissing another man as she passes on the train, and she is devastated by the revelation that Jess is cheating on Jason. Rachel goes on a binge later that night and blacks out. We learn the following morning that Jess, whose real name is Megan, is missing.
Rachel panics due to being informed she was in a rage at Tom’s house, shouting at him and Anna the night Megan disappeared. She wonders if somehow she may have had something to do with it. She later gets close to Scott, who is the prime suspect and majorly distraught over her disappearance. The relationship is built on lies told by Rachel. The mystery unravels, and Rachel becomes more involved than she can ever imagine.
The novel is a superb fast paced read that provides lots of suspense due to the shifts in perspective, as Megan and Anna also narrate sections of the novel. This gives different interpretations of events and helps put the puzzle together for the reader. The book is worth checking out before the film. The characters are well drawn, but the ending does seem a little underdeveloped. The timing of the big revelation makes some sense, but it also does hurt that she didn’t come to it sooner. Gone Girl has an ending that doesn’t hurt characterization. Instead, it enhances the story into something completely different than expected. The Girl on the Train has a satisfying conclusion, if not a little underwhelming in a sense.
It is understandable why the book has been so successful, and I wanted to publish this review now as Paula Hawkins new novel, Into the Water, is set to be released on May 2nd of this year. This gives readers late to the party enough time to read this one before the follow-up hits bookstores and e-readers everywhere.