'The Girl On The Train' by Paula Hawkins

Tuesday 3 October 2017

“There’s something comforting about the sight of strangers safe at home.” 

I finally picked up ‘The Girl On The Train’ after a a long run of hype and constantly seeing the film adaptation advertised everywhere. The novel centres around Rachel taking the same commuter train everyday, focusing on a signal stop and the suburban homes behind the tracks. At this stop she idealises a couple whose home she can see into and reflects on her previous ‘perfect’ life. 

As we follow this daily pattern, gin and tonics fall in with hints of alcoholism and it soon becomes clear that Rachel is trying to cover something up. What isn’t clear at this point is that Rachel is using alcohol to mask harder times. Her unreliability and memory loss increasing as she loses herself in the fictions she creates around the couple she can see from the tracks. 

With all this building the story kickstarts the moment she witnesses something out of the ordinary in the perfect life she loves watching and desperately goes to the police.  As Rachel’s unreliability develops as readers we are desperate to fill in the blanks but also to find out what drove her into her disparity. 

From this point on I was waiting for the twist, or at least hints of it. So rather than finding myself wrapped up in ‘The Girl On The Train’ I felt like I was just waiting for it to happen. 

The Girl On The Train Paula Hawkins

Rachel isn’t the only narrator in the novel. Hawkins creates three distinct female voices whose narration she switches between. The style creates a desperation between chapters that leaves us the reader over reliant on not putting the book down, a fantastic ploy and technique to keep you reading.  

As much as these voices were distinct I found each narrator was defined by the men in their lives, even the ones who were a mystery to them. This dictated our perception as the reader, feeling as those the male characters had more control over our perception of the three narrators and their unreliabilities than the characters themselves, purely because we were not met with their flaws yet. 

Although this agitated it me thinking back it reflected on how much time we spend as voyeurs now. We often work on assumptions made with the little knowledge we have about people or focusing on their issues rather than the situation that led them there.  Exactly the situation Rachel found herself in. 

The Girl On The Train Paula Hawkins

After finishing the novel I was eager to watch the film but it lacked something I loved about the novel, the elements and closeness of London. 

The location in the novel commented on how little attention we pay to those who we commute with on a close daily basis and the mysteries of what happens behind closed doors. By changing to an American landscape the closeness was lost and everything I loved about the book. 

The Girl On The Train Paula Hawkins

What did you think? Buy it here: The Girl on the Train

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