by Paula Hawkins
Published on January 13, 2015
by Riverhead Books
Synopsis from Goodreads: Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?Note: this is an adult book, but one that I think has huge crossover appeal to YA readers. There are some adult themes and situations.
My take: Thrillers and mysteries are some of my favorite kinds of books, and I think they're diabolically hard to write. You have to think backwards and forwards, figuring out what happened, and then carefully piece together clues that the protagonist (and the reader!) can find and puzzle over. I also feel strongly that you have to make the ending guessable.
As thrillers go, I thought The Girl on the Train was excellent. It offers a page-turning plot, characters that slowly reveal themselves to the reader, and some really interesting themes.
Rachel's lost her job but still takes the train to and from London as if she still had a purpose. She also has got a bit of a drinking problem. As she sits on the train, drinking and sad, she wistfully watches a couple whose deck backs onto the train tracks. They seem so happy together. Then one day, she sees something shocking on the deck, something she can't get out of her mind. Soon she'll be inserting herself into the lives of others with unexpected and unintended results.
I think one of my favorite aspects of the story is the way it explores our instinct to assume and to judge others on very limited information. First there are the assumptions that Rachel makes about her happy couple. Then, there are the assumptions the reader makes about Rachel and her drinking and erratic behavior. The book does this again and again-- introduces a character or situation, lets you make your assumptions, and then slowly pulls back the lens to show you more context or other extenuating circumstances. As a result, my opinion of different characters was constantly changing. The number of suspects in the crime is relatively small, and by about two-thirds of the way through, I thought I had figured out what happened. I was right, but that in no way spoiled my enjoyment of the story.
Highly recommended for fans of thriller and mysteries!