The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

SYNOPSIS:

EVERYDAY THE SAME

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.

UNTIL TODAY

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough.

Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar.

Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train… 

***

I’ve read the Romanian version of the book, Fata din tren, translated by Ionela Chirilă

Genre: Mystery-Thriller, Crime

Page count: 404 (Romanian version), 409 (English version)

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4.45/5)

I have lost control over everything, even the places in my head.

I am quite amazed by the fact that this book has been sitting on my bookshelf for like two years already and I haven’t been able to read it until, like, a couple weeks ago. But then, I remember that I have books older than my brother, sitting and rotting on my bookshelf that have lost all kind of hope in begging me to read them, I just feel better about this one.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins is, indeed, a very well-written thriller. At some point in my life, everyone around me talked about this book and now, after reading it, I understand why: it was actually brilliant.

The plot follows the lives of three women, Rachel, Megan and Anna, initially with no connection whatsoever, but until the end of the book they become somehow tangled together like triplets. At least this is how I saw their connection developing throughout the chapters.

I cannot say it impressed me at first on the verge of admiration. No. But it was so easy and fast to read that it’s actually made up for my super high expectations (because, let’s be honest, you hear so many – SO MANY – things about a hyper hyped book like this and your expectation-o-meter just blows up faster than Chernobyl’s 4th reactor). But, boy. How were the last 100 pages? Oh, don’t ask. I’m still a mess about everything that happened.

I do not exaggerate when I say I’ve read 134 pages of this book in one sitting. I know for some of you might seem easy-peasy, but for me, the slow reader (trademark) it is quite a big deal. And it means something about the book too – it’s well written. It is clear, sometimes fast-paced, sometimes a bit slowed down, but it is really clear. And God, I love my books like that. Who doesn’t though? (maybe some alien weirdos that I cannot relate to, who knows).

Another great thing about it that I loved was the use of an alcoholic as the main voice of the book. It is absolutely fascinating to see all the things happening through the eyes of a drunk head. All the information that we get, is filtered through this person’s own reality, which differs immensely from the actual reality. You know why? Because an alcoholic is an alcoholic because he or she wants to get away from the actual reality. And if the sparks of alcohol can create something less brutal and more idyllic, then an alter reality is what we get. Which is still our reality, but distortional as hell.

Rachel, our alcoholic, drank much. Like too much and at inappropriate hours. She knows she has a problem. Her life is miserable, it just fell apart, she wants nothing more to do with it and, if you look at it with your eyes closed, it is quite understandable to drown your sorrows in this kind of evil liquids.

Rachel also has a tendency to distortion the reality more than the alcohol in her veins does and keeps imagining all sort of stories for people around her that actually exist, but do not live exactly how she thinks they do. This is the case of her role-model couple, Jason and Jess, aka Scott and Megan (who, in reality, have NOTHING to do with the fake, imaginary couple). This tendency of Rachel’s is maybe another thing that gets her into high trouble, because she interchanges her imaginary life with reality. And that can cost her dearly, if caught lying. She knows everything, but how much is it true or real?

I’m playing at real life instead of actually living it.”

Further dissecting this novel, a pretty notable aspect is the hidden face of the characters. The three narrative voices of the book have the role of seeing both the exterior and the interior of the characters, which differ ‘from sky to earth’ as we like to say in Romanian (or, an even funnier expression that we use a lot: the exterior of the characters ‘nu se pupă’ with the interior – basically they don’t kiss. Cutie, eh? I know, we are a very lovely breed, us, Romanians, but moving on…).

From the three so different women – voices of our action – we discover ugly secrets, dark and heavy, desperately hidden, but even more desperately found and brought to light. And the secrets, guys…ah, the secrets. Those are the engine that keep a good thriller going. And yes, here are some really ugly, juicy, twisty secrets that cannot wait to jump out.

Also, the book has the nice particularity of those old and good mystery novels that give you all the details you need to solve the puzzle yourself, but the details are so low-key you don’t even realise they are there (bonus points from me for that concept). Keep the mind open people and you’ll solve the puzzle as I did.

Before putting an end on this, I would like to discuss another thing that wrecked my nerves.

**This may or may not be a spoiler, but mainly I think it is not. It becomes obvious from the first chapters so I am going to leave it here anyway and I’ll let you calculate the spoiler-grade yourselves**

Okay, I understood the fact that because of some circumstances, Rachel got an ugly depression and started drinking. But the way she was treated by everyone in her life, including her bastard (ex-)husband is just so cruel and unfair. How is a normal person going to get through tough times when there is no one good by his or her side to push them towards what is right?

I hated the so-called “cat-fight” in the book. It was all about the attention of men, about how some of us are desirable, while the others are the term of comparison – I look good compared to her. I don’t know how other people felt about it, but I wasn’t very comfortable with this fact. Purely as social decency. This whole cat-fight situation between the current and the ex wasn’t something I particularly enjoy on a daily basis. I don’t blame the author. God forbid, no. This is a real-life fact that is just brought in main scene in the book. But I don’t agree with this kind of fight over attention. This whole hate and jealousy just turns into obsession, a very, very unhealthy obsession that consumes your life. It is about your pride as a human being, as an individual. How can you expect to be you when you overshadow a past life of another person? How can you expect to live and even let the other person live by doing this? You don’t. You’ve killed not only yourself, but another human spirit with only a move like that. Maybe I am being pretentious, but if you want a life of your own, you have to own it and make sacrifices. Unfortunately, sacrifices are things that actually keep us alive.

And what I want to further add is that I couldn’t help but notice that there is a certain similarity between Hawkins’ way of putting things in action and Stephen King’s. It is the same cruel manner of expression, with violent truths and obscene language. The same sinister way of presenting the reality. The same endless social and moral problems revealed to everyone (for example, the cruel manner of abusing women; that’s just so obvious). It is absolutely fascinating. Oh and yet, another Tom that I absolutely hate from deep within (see: Stephen King’s Tom Rogan in It)

Okay now, with all that being said, I’d like to conclude with the fact that even though this book did not live by the great expectations I’ve created around it, it was actually pretty close.  Analysing all those things I encountered during the action, I realised that it is more under the words than above them. And this kind of thing is important because this gives a book the opportunity to live forever.

4 thoughts on “The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

  1. Fantastic review, Teodora! I still haven’t read it, although, like you, I actually have my own copy and it’s been sitting on my shelf for more than two years😀 Loved your reference to Stephen King. More willing to give it a try after reading your review. Have you read her second book?

    Liked by 1 person

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