Cheating husbands, a dead wife, and alcoholics … only some of the drama encased in The Girl on the Train, a riveting mystery novel by Paula Hawkins. (Alert: this review does contain some spoilers!)
The author centers the story around Rachel, a young British woman, recovering from a recent divorce marred by the husband’s affair. She’s stuck in a rut of alcoholism; depressed and unemployed, she cannot go a day without a sip of wine or a can of gin and tonic. What keeps the bottle to her lips? Everyday, she rides the train into London and passes by her old home, where her ex-husband now lives with his mistress and their new baby. A very observant individual, she also keeps tabs on the new couple a few doors down, Jess and Jason, she names them, her dream marriage. Day after day, she watches them laugh and drink wine on their rooftop terrace and yearns for her happier past. Then one day in commute, Rachel witnesses an event that changes everything and suddenly gives her life purpose.
A few spoilers to peak your interest: Someone’s wife dies. Multiple characters don’t remain faithful to their spouses. You cannot trust her ex-husband. (Too much?)
Hawkins saturated this story with emotion. Each main character has difficult, jarring backstory of past mistakes and much pain they don’t forget. Another spoiler: a character might have accidentally killed their baby as a teenager. Crazy right?!
Critics call The Girl on the Train a “psychothriller,” as the plot twists your mind with each page. The whole story is Rachel trying to remember an eventful night of drinking that occurred the same night as a mysterious disappearance. Readers learn the science behind memory loss and retrieval. So when Rachel does remember key details, the reader is just as shocked as her.
This novel was just my type. As a reader, writer, and American consumer, I love drama as my favorite genre. I love reading about mysteries I have to solve (How to Get Away with Murder, for one). I love watching communities entangled with frenemies and love triangles (sound like Grey’s Anatomy to you?). My favorite movies make me think and want to rewatch it again for clues. No wonder I love Scandal and Pretty Little Liars so much.
At first, I didn’t understand the hype around this book. I found the characters to be quite depressing. The beginning was a really sad drag through Rachel’s emotional mud as an alcoholic. But getting towards the end, the novel’s energy picks up. The plot suddenly twists and everything you expected to happen doesn’t. If you’re like me, this is when you start yelling at the pages. You don’t know the characters as well as you think you do. The author straps you into a rollercoaster to dramatic, gripping, and triumphant ending.
Five stars. I highly recommend.
As always, thanks for reading! Let me know if you want more book reviews in the comments below.
What’s next on my winter break reading list? Here are the candidates:
- The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
- The Girl With No Past
- All the Light We Cannot See
- Girl on a Train by AJ Waines (not the same book, but I’m on a British thriller kick)