The Girl On The Train Book Review
Last Updated on December 8, 2022
So we’re almost halfway through March, and quite a few of you…including myself…have finished The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins. All the reviews I read had compared it to Gone Girl, so I was thrilled to be reading this month’s book picked by Ashley from Bigger Than The Three Of Us and Thalita from The Learner Observer, and my co-worker Mary Kate. This book is narrated by three different women, which can sometimes make for a difficult read, but in this case, was well done. It just took some getting used to. The only thing I found myself paging back to were the dates. Confused initially, I didn’t realize Megan’s dates were completely different from Rachel’s. I was also suddenly taken aback when Anna jumped into the mix a quarter of the way in. I thought I had missed the boat and had to double back to make sure. I mean, I do read in bed, half-asleep, so ya never know.
This book, for me, was completely relatable, to a degree that is (not in the murderous way). I take a daily commuter train to and from Chicago and have done so for years. I sit in the same train car every day, in the same seat. By a window. I’ve seen kids grow up, people move, celebrations, the same people having breakfast, drinking their morning coffee…for years, I watched a homeless couple who lived on the old warehouse dock. I’d watch them sleep, wake…watch me watching them. Suddenly, one day, they disappeared. I never saw them again.
Whether we care to admit it or not, we all participate in voyeurism. Watch daily life happen around us. Observe. I don’t think Rachel’s voyeuristic ways are all that unusual. However, I do think she took curiosity to an extreme. Obviously. She actually interjected herself into lives that did not belong to her. But, in a weird way, you do become attached to these strangers. Like the homeless couple, I mentioned above. Even after all these years, I sometimes wonder what happened to them.
A couple of times I was super annoyed with Rachel. I understood how Tom and Anna felt. At first, I was angry with Paula Hawkins for making Rachel behave like a lunatic. Like when she went to see Abdic, I was like, seriously, good grief, who does this!?!? It was absurd. One night, disgusted, I snapped the book shut, placed it on the nightstand, rolled my eyes, and turned off the light. Laying there in the dark, I realized this is how the other characters perceive Rachel. Cathy her flatmate, Anna, Tom, her co-workers, were all frustrated with Rachel. Paula Hawkins, you are a genius! Did you guys feel like this? Were you as annoyed with Rachel as I was? I just wanted to be done with her.
There’s a lot of lying in this book. Everyone is lying to everyone else. Secrets kept from loved ones. From friends. I personally don’t think it’s justifiable to lie. It hurts way worse when the truth comes out…and it always comes out…eventually. What about the lies that the characters tell themselves? I’m not going to have another drink. I’m a good person. I’m a good mother. I’m a happy wife. I’m in a happy marriage. I am a caring husband. I want to be a mother.
With all the lying, I started to question the trust. Who trusted whom? Anna trusted Tom. Scott trusted Rachel. Rachel trusted Tom. Megan trusted Kamal Abdic. And yet, in the end, they all rejected each other. Well, I take that back. Rachel trusted herself. Not at first, but deep down, she knew something wasn’t right. Everyone, including Rachel, had different assumptions about her character. A drunk, an unreliable source, a lunatic, a stalker, a wife, a trusted friend, a lover. Did your assumptions change for her throughout the book? Have you finished? What surprised you the most? I can’t wait to read your comments below. I encourage this to be a book club discussion, if you reply to another reader’s comment, they should receive an email prompting a response. I will be responding as well.
Next Month’s Book Review
Next up, we will be reviewing All The Light We Cannot See. From what I’ve read about this particular book is that you have to commit yourself to it, but it’s apparently life-changing. I’m going to shoot to have the discussion page up on Wednesday, April 22nd. Do not feel pressured to complete the book by that date. Remember this is a no-pressure, no-obligation book club. The page will always be up for you to discuss. Also, you can always find the latest book image and a link to the latest book club discussion in the sidebar to the right. Be sure to check out more book reviews and discussions.
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If you’re looking for the best interior design books or looking to give a decorating book as a gift for the holidays. Don’t miss that roundup, and be sure to bookmark that post because I’m always updating it with my favorites.
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Gilly @ Colour Saturated Life
I have to admit I have been a bit slack with my reading! I started the book and found the character of Rachel really annoying from the get go so I found it really hard getting through the book. Like you Kyla I found her very frustrating but I did understand her voyeuristic tendencies, we all have that in us, especially when you are on a train or travelling when you don’t have to concentrate. I didn’t like the book, sorry, not my thing but I think it was because I didn’t really like anyone! I have to connect with a character to really love or like a book and I didn’t.
I was wondering if you anyone has watched the movie versions of “This is where I leave you”? I watched it a few weeks ago and while I really enjoyed it, it didn’t quite stick to the book and I felt it made the ending a little bit too Hollywood.
kylaGilly @ Colour Saturated Life
I’ve been wanting to watch “This is Where I Leave You”. It’s on my list. A co-worker watched it and hated it, but for more personal reasons. Ever since I saw the trailer, I’ve been dying to watch it. I love Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Timothy Olyphant and Connie Briton. They are all brilliant actors. I should see if I can OnDemand it or find it on HBO.
Don’t ever be sorry for not liking a book. That is what this is all about. Although I do feel bad you didn’t enjoy it. I normally give until page 50 to get into a book. This one I had to push on. I think the reviews comparing it to Gone Girl threw me. It was not Gone Girl, but for me, I still enjoyed it. But yes, I got annoyed with it. LOL! I do think that is what the author was trying to make happen though. She wanted you to be all sorts of annoyed with Rachel.
I cracked All The Light We Cannot See last night and I’m understanding very quickly why the reviews said you have to be committed to it. We shall see if I make it through this one. Although, from what I’ve heard it’s amazing…but that was said about Girl On The Train as well.
All the Light We Cannot See….how did you like it? I am mid way and love it!
I COMPLETELY AGREE WITH YOUR INSIGHTS IN THIS BOOK. I HAD TO FLIP BACK AND FORTH AT THE BEGINNING BECAUSE I REALIZED IT WAS 2 NARRATIVES AND DIFFERENT DATES. AT ONE POINT I THOUGHT MAYBE RACHEL WAS PSYCHOTIC AND WAS BOTH BOTH MEGAN AND RACHEL! BUT, THAT’S ANOTHER BOOK! HA!
I did the same thing! At one point I had to flip back to remind myself (three times) whose point of view I was reading, and the date thing totally messed me up!
That date thing totally messed with me!
Oh, see that would have been an interesting twist! Ya, those dates messed me up a lot. Even after I figured out that I had to pay attention to dates, I was still flipping back and forth.
I completely agree that Rachel’s character got so insanely annoying at times and I, too, put the book down at one point because I couldn’t handle her character anymore, and when I realized that Hawkins did that on purpose, it made me appreciate her so much more as an author. What a genius move!
I also struggled with Scott’s character a bit. I didn’t understand his abusive behaviour (towards both Megan and Rachel – though maybe a little towards Rachel) and found it almost “too convenient” that he happened to be occasionally scary and physical given the plot of the story. When Rachel went to see Abdic, I was also super pissed. That was straight up crazy, but I loved the way he was described through her eyes.
My point is, I had a major love/hate relationship with this book and ultimately found myself, late at night, furiously flipping through the last 40 pages and unwilling to sleep until I knew how/when they would catch the killer. It’s been a while since I’ve lost sleep over a book!
Same here. It was a total love/hate relationship. And yes, the last few pages had me going. I just had to see what was going to happen. Gone Girl it was not, but a fun it read…ya, I’ll give it that!
Do you think Hawkins wrote Scott’s character as abusive because she never wanted us to like him? If we liked him, then we might relate more to him than Rachel. I agree with you that it was convenient that he was a jerk.
I’m kinda having a hard time with All The Light We Cannot See. Getting into it that is. I’m understanding why people have reviewed it saying it’s a commitment.
Natasha at The Simply Luxe Life
I read Girl on a Train a bit before you began it for the book club pick. I was intrigued when I read that it was compared to Gone Girl, so I snatched it right up.
At the risk of sounding completely harsh – I hated it. There were no likeable characters, and aside from the roommate, Cathy, and Anna’s baby, I didn’t even have much sympathy for any of them. Rachel was beyond aggravating, which I realize was the point, but c’mon, it was too much. For me, it seemed too contrived. Worse yet, the ending was predictable at best.
I really struggled to get through the book. The only thing that kept me going was the hope that my prediction about the ending was wrong and there would be some genius twist that would change my mind about the whole thing. But, no. such luck. Gone Girl it was not!
All the Light We Cannot See has been on my “to read” list for awhile. Right now I’m in the middle of We Are Called to Rise and am loving it.
kylaNatasha at The Simply Luxe Life
It’s funny you say that because a few people have said they hated it. You’re right, it was not Gone Girl. I think that is why I really had to push on in the beginning. I too had no real emotional connection to the characters. Just the train aspect with Rachel.
Because ti was compared to Gone Girl, I was immediately trying to figure out who did what. I was pushing for Anna right from the beginning, and knew there was another man other then Abdic right from the beginning. She wrote something where Megan was by the underpass and she said, “There he was in his car with that grin.” But she never said it was Abdic. I suspected it was Tom just because she nannied.
I’m going to have to check out We Are Called To Rise. So far I’m struggling with All The Light We Cannot See. It’s not going to be a fast read for me.
ThalitaNatasha at The Simply Luxe Life
I love what you said about there being no likeable characters – even Anna became unlikeable at points. Cathy was the only one I really liked (oh and Evie, too, I suppose), but I really wanted to like Scott! I don’t think it would have been a terrible thing for him to just be another Cathy-like character in the book – perfectly likeable with a few usual flaws thrown into the mix. It didn’t have to be a bad temper, though, and it didn’t have to be so forced.
I also hoped my prediction would be wrong, especially after reading that there was such a crazy twist at the end.
Natasha at The Simply Luxe LifeThalita
Thalita, I totally agree on Scott. Why was that sudden violent episode need to happen? In all fairness, I can completely understand wanting to punch Rachel :), it wasn’t believable with the rest of his character. It just felt like an attempt to throw suspicion around – too obvious!
kylaNatasha at The Simply Luxe Life
I’m cracking up with how much you disliked Rachel =)
For me, it was an easy read. I can’t say I hated it because it was just something to pass the time. On the other hand, it definitely wasn’t amazing. I thought the author did a good job with the character chapter changes but agree with everyone else on the time jumps. I had to go back and review the time as well.
I totally agree with what Thalita said about Scott’s character. I was a bit frustrated that he became physical. Personally, I think it would have been more intriguing to have his character take on a different persona.
On one hand, I totally loved Rachel’s character. If I was sitting on a train each day, I would totally be watching people that I passed. I loved that aspect of her. The fact that she doesn’t have a job, lies to everyone and really has no friends… I can’t grasp. So, overall I think she was interesting but not relatable.
I’m so excited for the next book! It’s been on my list!
First of all, that was a very well-written and evocative review, for which I commend you. You told a lot without telling too much! Very hard to do that. Second, as soon as I read that you have been in that same seat every day for years, watching people, I thought: Wow, that would make for a great series on your blog. The daily things you see, things you might assume (as we voyeurs tend to create stories about the people we see), the sameness and the changes. Look, I write about what is going on in the grocery store when I shop, and people seem to like to read mundane things like that. In fact they email that that is some of their favorite posts. Might consider it. People are often comforted by “slice of life” stories.
Wow Brenda! Seriously, thank you so much for the compliment! I really tried hard not to give too much away. These words coming from you, being a real writer, it means the world to me. Thank you for brightening my day.
And your suggestion might be kinda fun. My friends on my personal Facebook are always cracking up with some of the weird stories and train drama that happens. Like that man who use to sit my me daily and rub my leg…ewe =) Or the man who recently sneezed in my purse. I swear there are so many wackadoos out there and half of them ride my line =) Thanks for the suggestion!