I’m not quite sure The Girl on the Train deserves all the hype it’s being given, but it’s a fast-paced psychological thriller/mystery, and I think it succeeds handily in being exactly what the author wanted it to be. I didn’t NEED to read it, and you don’t either, but I’m glad that I did.
As is always the case with these sorts of books, the less said about the book the better, but I do want to take a second to talk about some things:
1. Hawkins employs a series of unreliable narrators to tell her tale (in the first person present, which notably didn’t make me fly into a rage here, so props for that). This has the effect of obscuring things not only from the reader, but from the other characters as well. In the case of the titular girl on the train, Rachel, we’re seeing the story through the lens of a depressive alcoholic who is barely holding it together. It’s a challenge to sort through her wobbly, emotionally self-destructive perspective to see what’s really going on. I liked the way she used Rachel’s flaws to enhance the mystery at the same time as Rachel’s character. The other two POV characters are Megan, a blonde young woman whom Rachel observes every day from her commuter train, and Anna, the mistress who Rachel’s husband left her for.
2. Your sense of these women as people is constantly shifting as the book goes on. They are not always likable, but they are always interesting, and ultimately, human. This complicates the mystery but also gives the book a little more depth. If you’re looking for depravity and shocking behavior, you’re not really going to find it here. Everything that happens here is couched in a layer of sympathy from the author–these aren’t monsters or psychopaths, they’re people who’ve sometimes done and said terrible things.
3. Of course I didn’t figure out the mystery, but I’ve heard other people have. I’ve stated on numerous occasions that I’m not the best at figuring out the answers in mysteries, so keep that in mind when I tell you the ending came as a surprise to me. It also fit in with everything that had been happening in the book so far and made retroactive sense. I’m not sure if you guess the ending if that will hamper your enjoyment of the book–it might, and it might not. There might still be some pleasure in it for you to see how the whole thing is constructed. How Hawkins put it all together is pretty neat.
If you like thrillers and mysteries, you should definitely check this book out, just don’t put any of your own outside expectations onto it and you’ll be fine. Despite what you may have heard, this isn’t “the new Gone Girl.” It’s its own thing. Read accordingly.