Review: The Girl on the Train

A train that always stops in the same spot. And an alcoholic: Rachel. Whose life also got stuck in the same spot. Five years ago. When she was happy with her husband, Tom. When they were trying to have a baby.

Now, there’s not much left of that. Except the train that stops in front of a house neighboring her old one. And a happy couple that she sees daily, while riding the train to her imaginary workplace. Rachel lost her job about three months ago. Too drunk to work. Too drunk to even live decently. Drunk enough to become… our unreliable narrator.

The Girl on the TrainPaula Hawkins’ novel revolves around Rachel and her dream couple, Megan and Scott. This couple is actually Rachel’s attempt to reconstruct her past happiness. Silently observing the them from afar, she constantly fantasizes about what her life would have been if she and her husband hadn’t fallen apart. If there had been no Anna, who is the official reason Rachel is now divorced and miserable.

All the symbols in the novel indicate Rachel’s obsession with her past, her incapacity to let it go. She still keeps her husband’s name. Still wishes she would live in the house they shared together. And then, there’s the train. And that spot. That same spot every single day.

Written in the form of a triple diary (Rachel’s, Anna’s and Megan’s), ‘The Girl on the Train’ is the story of an alcoholic, of psychotherapy sessions, of obsessions and hidden desires. Or, is it more than that?

We follow the imaginary life of the ideal couple (Megan and Scott), we witness the sad story of Rachel’s slow self destructing – The Girl on the Train could easily pass for a mini-drama… until… The ideal couple gets shredded to pieces once Megan mysteriously disappears.

That’s when Rachel finally finds new meaning in her life. She becomes an (undercover) detective.  For once, in all these years, she feels like she can help somebody. She is certain Megan is gone for good. And she knows that, whatever happened to her, it’s not Scott who did it. She once saw something… if only she could remember what it was… if only she hadn’t drunk so much that evening…


Rachel’s constant forgetfulness prompts a lot of flashbacks. Mix them together with the following ingredients: Rachel’s addiction to alcohol and her obsession with the past, add Anna who desperately wants Rachel out of her family’s life, subtract Megan after her sudden disappearance. And what you get is a potent cocktail: the perfect thriller! All built around some railways and a fixed route… for the girl on the train.


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