This new novel by Paula Hawkins is being touted as the next can’t-miss suspenseful read (a la Gone Girl). When a book is compared to something else, it does pique my curiosity, but it also sets pretty high expectations, which can be dangerous or even misleading.
I enjoyed The Girl on the Train, but I do think that it suffered from that comparison somewhat. Whereas Gone Girl is a fast-paced psychological mystery full of twists and turns, this novel felt like more of a dramatic character study in many ways. Not only a character drama, but a bit of a sad character study.
Rachel is the girl on the train. She rides the same train at about the same time into London each morning and evening. There’s an area along the track where the train usually slows and stops, and Rachel takes that time to stare at the homes that are right along the track, glimpsing the life that she wishes she has. She fills in the gaps in the lives of Jess and Jason who she sees in their backyard.
We learn more about Rachel in her chapters, and she’s in a pretty sad state at this point in her life. We find out why, but I didn’t really connect with her personally. I didn’t understand her choices, but I didn’t feel judgment towards her, nor did I feel much compassion.
Alternating chapters are told from Jess’ point of view, and of course their stories end up intersecting.
There are plenty of twists and turns in the murder investigation that involves both Jess and Rachel. Whereas the first part of the book was character-driven, the last 1/3 of the book did definitely keep me turning pages with a faster pace and more action. They also had me questioning each character’s role in the murder right up to the suspenseful and surprising conclusion.
Sarah's Book Shelves says
I’m with you…I think this suffered from the Gone Girl comparison that gets slapped on almost every decent psychological thriller these days. I liked it a lot, but didn’t love it like I did GG. GG absolutely shocked me, while I easily guessed the ending of this one (and I’m not usually one to easily guess endings). I did really enjoy the psychological element, though.
Have you read What Has Become of You? I think that it had many of the same elements — that sense of being slightly off and wondering where it’s all going.
Melissa Mc says
I just started this last night…haven’t gotten very far because of my schedule. Hope to dig in tonight!
I’d love to know what you think!
Stacie Gorkow ( says
Just finished this one this morning. It didn’t have that WOW factor for me, but it was a page-turner. The characters were hard to like or care about.
Yes, especially by the middle, I did have to keep reading to find out what happened.
Daniel B says
I picked this up last week after my better half “suggested” I buy it for her…and then this morning I’m hearing all sorts of chatter about it. It’s good to hear a down to Earth review. Thanks for helping me manage expectations.
VICKIE L COUTURIER says
sounds like a good book,id love to read it before i see the movie