Book Reviewer Kristopher Zgorski is an avid reader devoted to crime fiction who presently works as a Production Coordinator for Johns Hopkins University Press located in Baltimore, Maryland, USA and is also the founder of the mystery and crime fiction book review blog BOLO Books (http://www.bolobooks.com).
There is no set formula for how a book generates buzz, however,
there are certain books each year that start to appear on the general
consciousness of the public for whatever reason. It starts with industry buzz
during the manuscript stages, then the reviewers start to chime in once the
advanced reader copies have gone out, and finally mainstream press start to
cover the author and the novel. No one knows why this happens and sometimes the
hype is warranted and sometimes less so. In the case of Paula Hawkins’ debut
novel, The Girl on the Train, the buzz is legit and attention must be
Many comparisons to other
bestselling novels have been made, but the reality is that The Girl on the
Train is quite unique in its storytelling style, plot, and resolution.
Putting all of that aside, the novel is simply a strong addictive debut and a
book that most fans of psychological thrillers are sure to enjoy.
The idea of the unreliable
narrator has been a trope of literature for a very long time. In the novel,
Paula Hawkins triples the concept by giving readers three very different, but
equally unreliable point-of-view characters. In doing so, Hawkins weaves a
complex web that can only be understood as all the narratives collide.
First there is the titular character
of Rachel Watson. Rachel is a virtually homeless, divorced, alcoholic who
travels via train to her place of employment. Because she travels that same
route at the same time every day, she has begun to make up stories about one
couple she sees outside the train window every day. Their house is located in
an idyllic neighborhood outside of London and all Rachel knows of them is what
she sees through the train window. She creates names, emotions, and history for
them – all in her mind.
The second narrator is Megan
Hipwell, the female half of the couple living at the home that Rachel is
watching. She and her husband communicate well and had a bit of a dream
courtship, but she now regularly sees a psychiatrist for bouts of insomnia,
depression and frequent panic attacks. It seems like a bit of a disconnect, but
is that really what is going on? And if so, why?
The last point-of-view which
readers are privy to is that of Anna Watson, the insecure new wife of Rachel’s
ex-husband. She is a harried new mother who has isolated herself partly due to
the frequent and unwanted contact she and her husband constantly receive from a
Paula Hawkins intertwines the
lives of these three women in multiple ways to the point that the reader will
require the time and date stamps that start off each chapter to orient
themselves within the timeline. When one of these women suddenly goes missing,
the impact on the other two cannot be under-estimated – and therein the plot
Looking at this novel’s structure
in a unique way shows just how complex the whole is. Remember back in Chemistry
class when you first heard about atoms and how they are build from protons and
neutrons (in the central nucleus) with electrons orbiting around them? If
readers think of these narrators as being similar to those atom components,
they will see that over the course of the novel, there are clusters of “chapter
atoms” (some with Rachel/Megan as the nucleus and Anna orbiting or Anna/Rachel
as the nucleus with Megan orbiting and so on). Similar to actual chemistry, the
interactions of these atoms will create new reactions. Sometimes they fuse
together while other times they may repel completely. It is only when you get
the whole mix together (in this case, the entire novel) that the reactionary
outcome can be determined. The only problem is that with human nature, unlike
chemistry, the results are virtually unpredictable.
With The Girl on the Train,
Paula Hawkins has created a complex, yet completely believable plot which will
keep readers on tenterhooks throughout. With this as a debut novel, there is no
telling what Paula Hawkins is going to have in store for readers with round
Readers, don’t miss this train.