Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

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A debut psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people’s lives.

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?

Compulsively readable, The Girl on the Train is an emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller and an electrifying debut.

There’s been so much hype built around The Girl On The Train that I worried that when I finally got to it, it wouldn’t live up to expectations. Then I got sucked in and it knocked me off my feet, leaving me gasping.

I believe the universal sentiment surrounding TGOTT is that none of the characters are likable. It’s true. They’re all severely flawed, some more than others. But the thrill is that they’re all so tangled up in their heads that you eagerly turn the pages to strip away their complicated layers revealing their true personas. For me the intrigue of the plot is that I used to be a commuter on the long train ride into the city for work. Like Rachel, I enjoyed people-watching and would often wonder about the people on the train with me or living in the houses that we’d zoom past. I’d make up stories in my head and draw out fantasy worlds for them. Unlike Rachel, I wasn’t persistently drunk or hung over; neither was I stalking an ex…or anyone for that matter. Rachel is the most pathetic and helpless of the characters involved yet she’s the one I felt the most sympathy for. Dejected and on the losing end of a marriage, she has since made the worst decisions, most of them for selfish reasons but I always gave her leeway. When this mystery surfaces surrounding the couple she's been admiring from afar, she zeroes in on it, thinking she may have the clues but all the while doubting what she thinks she knows. This singular event becomes her sole focus as she muddles through her own pitiful existence. It sounds harsh but ti's true. As for the others, they’re equally messed up though it doesn’t manifest outwardly. I simply shook my head wondering how they got to be that way and curious if they ever recognized how despicable they were. Seriously, you'll find yourself asking, "who does that?" just as I did!

Hawkins deftly connects each character’s story, enlightening us through the progression of the novel. As Rachel battles to find clarity, the pieces fall together. It’s intense, emotional and climactic. It’s been a while since I’ve read a good mystery and TGOTT is exactly the kind I like. Sometimes it can feel as if the plot is way ahead of you but here it’s purely psychological where the reader and character come out of the dark together. And that there was some redemption at the end made it satisfying. 

TGOTT  had me in its tight grip from start to finish. I’m excited to see how the movie adaptation turns out. It boasts an excellent cast and I hope the screen version captures the suspenseful, nail-biting vibe of the book. So my recommendation is to read this now if you’re up for a well-constructed and suspenseful mystery that'll hold your attention through to the end!

~ Bel

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