Review – The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins
People watching has long been a part of modern society. The fascination surrounding human behaviour shall never tire; it’s something we can all relate to, while at the same time, is so very distant.
It’s no secret I find the art of ‘seeing’ hugely entertaining. But what would happen if someone decided to take the innocent act of people watching one step further? What if that over-heard snippet of conversation, that sneaky glance into a stranger’s kitchen, became an every day obsession?
Paula Hawkins’ debut novel, The Girl on the Train, takes the reader on a thrilling journey, seen mainly through the eyes of commuter, Rachel. She becomes infatuated – fanatical almost – with fabricating the lives of fantasy couple Jess and Jason who later prove to be far from unknown to her.
As the plot begins to unravel, so it appears, does our protagonist, Rachel. With a complicated past still very much part of her present – Rachel’s obsessive and utterly exhaustive personality leaves no stone unturned – it’s no surprise that those close to her show increasing concern, bookended with complete disinterest. But could Rachel’s fantastical character traits prove the key to this fast-paced thriller?
As fingers point and blame is dished out, each character is scrutinized by either those in authority or by Rachel’s relentless analysis of everyone and everything around her. As a reader, you’re captivated, wholly drawn in. Hawkins’ repeated attention to detail helps set the scene both visually and emotionally. The mental strain each character experiences leaves an uncomfortable impression, with every turn of the page becoming unnerving.
Life is a ritual. We get up. Go to work. Go home. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. When something out of the ordinary, something slightly unexpected punctuates our daily routine we’re going notice. I know that my daily commute will consist of slices of familiarity: the businessman who fastens his tie with exact precision after boarding the train, the young girl who doodles her way to school, sketching on any available space in her exercise book and the coffee shop owner with a penchant for orange juice. We are creatures of habit, so when these habits are altered, however slight, we sit up and take notice.
By placing women in the title roles, Hawkins explores the often complex thought process of females at very different stages and experiences in their life cycle. As a reader, you begin to develop an emotional attachment to each of the women. Rachel’s fragility, Anna’s justified paranoia and the pain-felt youth of Megan.
Hawkins’ unquestionable ability to take you on a journey, second-guessing each character’s moves and motives, is what makes, The Girl on the Train, such a compelling read.