June 18, 2024

Gabbing Geek

Your online community for all things geeky.

Geek Lit: The Girl On The Train

A very unreliable narrator sees clues to a crime committed, but she isn't sure she even believes herself.

Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train is coming to the big screen very soon in a film adaptation starring Emily Blunt.

I like to read the book first.   NO SPOILERS after the cut.


The Girl on the Train is mostly the story of one Rachel Watson.  She’s divorced two years now, and hasn’t changed her name back.  She’s unemployed.  She’s an alcoholic.  And she keeps taking the train into London to preserve the fiction she is still gainfully employed to her flatmate Cathy.  Every day, her train passes by the house she used to live in with her ex-husband Tom.  Tom still lives there with his new wife Anna and their daughter Evie.  Rachel’s inability to get pregnant herself caused her to start drinking.

She also observes what she thinks is the perfect couple a few houses down from where she used to live.  One day, the woman of that couple disappears without a trace.  Rachel thought she saw some things and decides to try and help.

And that’s where the problems more or less start.  Rachel is drunk for most of the book and has trouble remembering much of anything.  She isn’t the sole narrator, either.  Megan, the victim, narrates some chapters, and hers allow the reader the best glimpse into what really happened, though Hawkins left some key names out in those early chapters for obvious reasons.  Anna, on the other hand, keeps seeing Rachel hanging around the neighborhood and has some less-than-positive feelings for her husband’s ex-wife, and for some very good reasons.

Much of the book deals with Rachel struggling to remember how her life went as wrong as it has.  Though not given much in the way of description beyond being overweight, weight gained due to her constant drinking, she certainly doesn’t sound like someone who looks like Emily Blunt.  A deeply flawed narrator, she should keep the reader wondering who and what she saw at various times, though when the whole thing comes together in the end, it makes sense.

The book has been compared to some degree to Gone Girl, though I would argue Gone Girl makes greater use of an unreliable narrator and has a hell of a better plot twist at the halfway point than anything involving The Girl on the Train.  Still, Hawkins’ novel makes good use of narrators who don’t know as much as the reader, and is able to create enough doubt in Rachel’s memories to make for a highly entertaining read.  Eight out of ten suspected therapists.