Wednesday, November 09, 2022


Title: The Girl On The Train

Author: Paula Hawkins
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Pages: 336
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Rachel takes the train to London every morning and returns to the room she rents in the evening. She has been dismissed from her job due to her drinking problem, but continues to commute to London, in the hope of catching sight of her ex-Tom who still lives in her old house, by the side of the railway tracks, with his new wife, Anna, with whom he cheated on Rachel, and their little baby

A few doors down from her old house live a couple that Rachel thinks of as Jess and Jason. Lonely and broken after her divorce, she has had no meaningful physical contact in a long time, and she voyeuristically imagines the lives of this young couple.

Still suffering on account of Tom’s unfaithfulness, she comes to know that Jess is cheating on Jason. When she sees a missing person poster with a picture of Jess, Rachel learns that her real name is Megan Hipwell, and decides to tell Jason (real name, Scott) about his wife’s affair.

Her involvement is the point at which the barren, divorced, nearly homeless Rachel discovers that her problems are going to get worse. The police believe that Rachel knows more about Megan’s disappearance than she’s willing to admit. But Rachel has no memory of the night Megan disappeared.

Could she have had something to do with Megan’s disappearance and subsequent fate?


The book is written in the alternate first person present tense PoV of Rachel and Megan at different timelines, with the occasional first person present tense PoV of Anna. Of these, Rachel is as unreliable a narrator as can be imagined. She gets drunk and then does things that the sober version of her would baulk at.

At first, it’s hard to tell how Rachel and Megan are related. The only thing they seem to have in common is an acquaintance with Anna and Tom. Gradually we come to know of other things they share. Both have been broken by the tragedies that they have faced. Both lives have been marred by a close acquaintance with the themes of the book, which are loneliness and motherhood, love and loss.


As a long-time, long-distance suburban train commuter, I had been looking forward to reading this book ever since I heard of its title. I liked the way, the author clued us in on the setting. The trundling of the trains is the soundtrack against which the book plays out.

Much of the writing for most of the book appears fragmented, and we are left trying to piece together insufficient clues, until nearly the end of the book when the clouds are suddenly lifted, and things begin to become clear.

Here’s a sample of the writing:

The holes in your life are permanent. You have to grow around them, like tree roots around concrete; you mould yourself through the gaps

It’s impossible to resist the kindness of strangers.

There’s nothing so painful, so corrosive, as suspicion.


The author does a great job with Rachel. I felt sorry for her, her loneliness and her alcoholism, as a result of that loneliness. Even though it is clear that she is an unreliable narrator, I couldn’t help warming to her as I understood the troubles she’d had to overcome, how far she had slipped away from a happy life. I felt for her, the pain of having a marriage break up on account of your spouse’s infidelity, then the torture of seeing him happy with his beautiful family while you struggle to hold it together.

In recent years, I find myself impatient with the accounts of narrators who have a drinking problem, but here Rachel’s alcohol addiction feels organic, a consequence of all that she has suffered in her life. Through it all, I rooted for her as one would root for a bullied child.

What I didn’t care for was how almost every one, Scott, Anna, even Tom, made disparaging remarks about Rachel’s appearance.

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