The Girl on the Train – Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar. Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train
This is one of those books that you keep reading despite the fact that you’ve realized many times that it is thoroughly not enjoyable. You keep telling yourself to stop it and find that you’ve swiped yet another page.
Summary: The Girl on the Train
Rachel Watson has lost her husband, her home and now, her job. Even so, she rides the commuter train to London every day. The train stops at a station that overlooks her old home, where her ex-husband Tom now lives with his wife, Anna, and the daughter he and Anna had together. Rachel couldn’t have children, which she believes started the downward spiral in their marriage. She started drinking, and Tom would always tell her the next day about the horrible things she’d done while drunk. Every day, Rachel sees a couple at the house a few doors down from Tom’s. They look happy and in love. She nicknames them Jess and Jason and always enjoys catching a glimpse of them in their seemingly perfect life.
Rachel is now an alcoholic. Sometimes, after too much alcohol, she calls Tom late at night. Once, she even went to his house and picked up the baby while Anna was napping. Tom and Anna demand that she stop harassing them.
The story switches perspectives often, and readers also get Megan’s story. Megan (known to Rachel as “Jess”) is depressed and restless after her gallery closes down. She’s a person who longs for highs in her life and can’t bear the current boredom. Her husband, Scott, works in the technology industry and worries about her. For a short time, Megan works as a nanny for Tom and Anna. Megan decides to go to counseling and begins having an affair with her therapist, Kamal. They talk about running away together.
During one of her train rides, Rachel sees Megan kissing another man on the balcony. She is furious at Megan for throwing everything away with her clearly wonderful husband. Rachel has a particularly bad night of drinking and decides she needs to talk to Tom in person. She takes the train to their stop, but she remembers nothing of the evening’s events when she wakes the next morning. A detective named Gaskill comes to question her. She learns Megan is missing. He also says Tom and Anna reported that Rachel was in the area last night and came to their door, drunk.
Rachel becomes obsessed with the case of Megan’s disappearance. She decides she has to tell Gaskill about having seen Megan with another man. She also emails Scott, who is under suspicion in the disappearance of his wife. When Scott and Rachel meet, Rachel lies and tells him she was a friend of Megan’s. Then she tells him about seeing Megan kissing Kamal, hoping this information will help his case. Scott reports this to the police, and Kamal is questioned and released. Scott continues to call Rachel afterward, hoping she can provide more answers or simply be near because she was someone who knew Megan.
Days and weeks pass with no sign of Megan. Rachel tries to sort out what she may have said, done or seen the night Megan vanished. She even starts visiting Kamal for therapy, giving him no indication she knows anything about the murder case. She hopes to get him to confess something about Megan that she can share with Scott. She also asks him if there are ways to retrieve memories one has lost while in a drunken state.
After heavy rains, Megan’s buried body is unearthed. An autopsy reveals she was pregnant. The papers also publish a rumor that Megan killed her own child at some point in the past. One of Megan’s narratives from an earlier date confirms this was true. She was living with a much older man named Mac, doing lots of drugs, when she had his child. She fell asleep in the tub while holding the baby, and the child drowned. Mac left, and she never saw him again. Other narratives reveal that Kamal ended the affair with Megan, knowing it was unprofessional and wrong. She tried to get him back, but ultimately allowed him to be a friend and confidante. She told him about the baby’s death.
The weaving story continues with Rachel’s and Anna’s present-day reflections and Megan’s thoughts leading up to her death. Anna, who had an affair with Tom while he was married to Rachel, is smug about her current life with him and their baby. But as she finds out about little lies he’s told, she starts to wonder if she can trust him. Then she finds a throw-away phone in Tom’s gym bag that belonged to Megan.
When Scott learns Rachel didn’t really know Megan as she’d said, he beats her and locks her in a room at his house for a short time. Megan’s narrative talks about her affair with Tom and how angry she became when he tried to end it. When she discovered she was pregnant, she decided to come clean with everyone. She told Scott about the affair, but he became abusive before she could let him know about the baby. She left and told Tom she had to meet him. When they took a drive together, she told him about the baby and revealed that it might be his.
Rachel’s memories of the night Megan disappeared slowly begin to return. She realizes she was down by the railroad tracks when Tom hit and bloodied her. Then she saw him get into a car with Megan. Rachel knows she has to help Anna get away from Tom. She goes to their home while Tom is out. Anna, who has long hated Rachel, wants to be angry. But having found the cell phone in Tom’s bag, she knows about the affair. She begins to realize the things Rachel says about Tom’s many deceptions are true.
Tom returns home to find his wife and ex-wife talking to each other. He admits everything, including the fact that he killed Megan when she told him about the baby. He then begins beating and dragging Rachel around the house, as well as verbally abusing her. Anna tries to keep her baby safe and calm Tom down. She manages to call the police, and Rachel grabs a corkscrew from the drawer behind her. She stabs him with it. While the story on record with the police shows Anna tried to save him, Rachel knows the truth: Anna twisted the corkscrew in further to finish the job. By the time the police arrive, Tom is dead.
Rachel starts the long road to recovery from alcoholism. She moves north, unsure where to settle yet because she still fears the shadows and is haunted by memories.
An Amazon Best Book of the Month, January 2015: Intersecting, overlapping, not-quite-what-they-seem lives. Jealousies and betrayals and wounded hearts. A haunting unease that clutches and won’t let go. All this and more helps propel Paula Hawkins’s addictive debut into a new stratum of the psychological thriller genre. At times, I couldn’t help but think: Hitchcockian. From the opening line, the reader knows what they’re in for: “She’s buried beneath a silver birch tree, down towards the old train tracks…” But Hawkins teases out the mystery with a veteran’s finesse. The “girl on the train” is Rachel, who commutes into London and back each day, rolling past the backyard of a happy-looking couple she names Jess and Jason. Then one day Rachel sees “Jess” kissing another man. The day after that, Jess goes missing. The story is told from three character’s not-to-be-trusted perspectives: Rachel, who mourns the loss of her former life with the help of canned gin and tonics; Megan (aka Jess); and Anna, Rachel’s ex-husband’s wife, who happens to be Jess/Megan’s neighbor. Rachel’s voyeuristic yearning for the seemingly idyllic life of Jess and Jason lures her closer and closer to the investigation into Jess/Megan’s disappearance, and closer to a deeper understanding of who she really is. And who she isn’t. This is a book to be devoured. -Neal Thompson
“The Girl on the Train marries movie noir with novelistic trickery. . . hang on tight. You’ll be surprised by what horrors lurk around the bend.”—USA Today
“Like its train, the story blasts through the stagnation of these lives in suburban London and the reader cannot help but turn pages. . . . The welcome echoes of Rear Window throughout the story and its propulsive narrative make The Girl on the Train an absorbing read.”—The Boston Globe
“[The Girl on the Train] pulls off a thriller’s toughest trick: carefully assembling everything we think we know, until it reveals the one thing we didn’t see coming.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Gone Girl fans will devour this psychological thriller. . . . Hawkins’s debut ends with a twist that no one—least of all its victims—could have seen coming.”—People
“Given the number of titles that are declared to be ‘the next’ of a bestseller . . . book fans have every right to be wary. But Paula Hawkins’ novel The Girl on the Train just might have earned the title of ‘the next Gone Girl.”—Christian Science Monitor
“Hawkins’s taut story roars along at the pace of, well, a high-speed train. …Hawkins delivers a smart, searing thriller that offers readers a 360-degree view of lust, love, marriage and divorce.”—Good Housekeeping
“There’s nothing like a possible murder to take the humdrum out of your daily commute.”—Cosmopolitan
“Paula Hawkins has come up with an ingenious slant on the currently fashionable amnesia thriller. . . . Hawkins juggles perspectives and timescales with great skill, and considerable suspense builds up along with empathy for an unusual central character.”—The Guardian
“Paula Hawkins deftly imbues her debut psychological thriller with inventive twists and a shocking denouement. … Hawkins delivers an original debut that keeps the exciting momentum of The Girl on the Train going until the last page.”—Denver Post
“The Girl on the Train, Hawkins’s first thriller, is well-written and ingeniously constructed.” – The Washington Post
“The novel is at its best in the moment of maximum confusion, when neither the reader nor the narrators know what is occurring” – The Financial Times
“This fresh take on Hitchcock’s Rear Window is getting raves and will likely be one of the biggest debuts of the year.”—Omaha World-Herald
“Hawkins’s tale of love, regret, violence and forgetting is an engrossing psychological thriller with plenty of surprises. . . . The novel gets harder and harder to put down as the story screeches toward its unexpected ending.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“A gripping, down-the-rabbit-hole thriller.”—Entertainment Weekly Hotlist
“The Thriller So Engrossing, You’ll Pray for Snow: Send in the blizzards, because nothing as mundane as work, school or walking the dog should distract you from this debut thriller. A natural fit for fans of Gone Girl-style unreliable narrators and twisty, fast-moving plots, The Girl on the Train will have you racing through the pages.”—Oprah.com
“It’s difficult to say too much more about the plot of The Girl on the Train; like all thrillers, it’s best for readers to dive in spoiler-free. This is a debut novel—Hawkins is a journalist by training—but it doesn’t read like the work of someone new to suspense. The novel is perfectly paced, from its arresting beginning to its twist ending; it’s not an easy book to put down. . . . . What really makes The Girl on the Train such a gripping novel is Hawkins’ remarkable understanding of the limits of human knowledge, and the degree to which memory and imagination can become confused.”—NPR.org
“[L]ike Gone Girl, Hawkins’s book is a highly addictive novel about a lonely divorcee who gets caught up in the disappearance of a woman whom she had been surreptitiously watching. And beyond the Gone Girl comparisons, this book has legs of its own.”—GQ.com
“Paula Hawkins’ thriller is a shocking ride.” –US Weekly
“An ex-wife indulges her voyeuristic tendencies in Paula Hawkins’s film-ready The Girl on the Train. In the post-Gone Girl era, crimes of love aren’t determined by body counts or broken hearts, but by who controls the story line.” –Vogue
“The Girl on the Train [is] a harrowing new suspense novel…a complex and thoroughly chilling psychological thriller… The Girl on the Train is one of those books where you can’t wait — yet almost can’t bear — to turn the page. It’s a stunning novel of dread.” –New York Daily News
“The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins is a psychologically gripping debut that delivers.” –The Missourian
“The Girl on the Train is the kind of slippery, thrilling read that only comes around every few years (see Gone Girl).” –BookPage
“Hawkins, a former journalist, is a witty, sharp writer with a gift for creating complex female characters.” –Cleveland Plain Dealer
“The Girl on the Train is as tautly constructed as Gone Girl or A.S.A. Harrison’s The Silent Wife, and has something more: a main character who is all screwed up but sympathetic nonetheless. Broken, but dear. . . . No matter how well it’s written, a suspense novel can fall apart in the last pages, with an overly contrived or unbelievable ending. Here, The Girl on the Train shines, with its mystery resolved by a left-field plot twist that works, followed, surprisingly, by what you might call a happy ending.”—Newsday
“I’m calling it now: The Girl on the Train is the next Gone Girl. Paula Hawkins’s highly anticipated debut novel is a dark, gripping thriller with the shocking ending you crave in a noir-ish mystery.” –Bustle
“Rachel takes the same train into London every day, daydreaming about the lives of the occupants in the homes she passes. But when she sees something unsettling from her window one morning, it sets in motion a chilling series of events that make her question whom she can really trust.”—Woman’s Day
“Hawkins’s debut novel is a tangle of unreliable narrators, but what will have readers talking is her deft handling of twists and turns and her eerily fine-tuned narrative. This is one creepy, dark thriller. . . . The book is smartly paced and delightfully complex. Just when it seems Hawkins is leading us one way, Rachel, Anna, or Megan change the game. Nothing can be taken for granted in The Girl on the Train, not even the account of the girl herself.”—Las Vegas Weekly
“Psychologically astute debut . . . The surprise-packed narratives hurtle toward a stunning climax, horrifying as a train wreck and just as riveting.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“[A] chilling, assured debut. . . . Even the most astute readers will be in for a shock as Hawkins slowly unspools the facts, exposing the harsh realities of love and obsession’s inescapable links to violence.”—Kirkus (starred review)
“intricate, multilayered psychological suspense debut, from a staggered timeline and three distinct female narrators. Rachel, who is unabashed in her darker instincts, anchors the narrative. Readers will fear, pity, sympathize and root for her, though she’s not always understandable or trustworthy. . . . En route to a terrorizing and twisted conclusion, all three women—and the men with whom they share their lives—are forced to dismantle their delusions about others and themselves, their choices and their respective relationships.”—Shelf Awareness
“This month we’re gearing up for Paula Hawkins’s mystery The Girl on the Train. Its three narrators keep readers guessing as they try to suss out who’s behind one character’s shocking disappearance. Can you figure out who did it before they do?”—Martha Stewart Living
“What a thriller!”—People Style Watch
“Hawkins keeps the tension ratcheted high in this thoroughly engrossing tale of intersecting strangers and intimate betrayals. Kept me guessing until the very end.”—Lisa Gardner, #1 New York Times–bestselling author of the Detective D. D. Warren series
“I simply could not put it down.”—Tess Gerritsen, New York Times–bestselling author of the Rizzoli and Isles series
“Gripping, enthralling—a top-notch thriller and a compulsive read.”—S. J. Watson, New York Times–bestselling author of Before I Go to Sleep
“Be ready to be spellbound, ready to become as obsessed. . . . The Girl on the Train is the kind of book you’ll want to press into the hands of everyone you know, just so they can share your obsession and you can relive it.”—Laura Kasischke, author of The Raising
“What a group of characters, what a situation, what a book! It’s Alfred Hitchcock for a new generation and a new era.”—Terry Hayes, author of I Am Pilgrim
“Artfully crafted and utterly riveting. The Girl on the Train’s clever structure and expert pacing will keep you perched on the edge of your seat, but it’s Hawkins’s deft, empathetic characterization that will leave you pondering this harrowing, thought-provoking story about the power of memory and the danger of envy.”—Kimberly McCreight, New York Times–bestselling author of Reconstructing Amelia
- Middlemarch by George Eliot
- Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
- The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
- A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle
- Silas Marner by George Eliot
The Girl on the Train – Video Review
About the Author
Paula Hawkins worked as a journalist for fifteen years before turning her hand to fiction.
Born and brought up in Zimbabwe, Paula moved to London in 1989 and has lived there ever since. Her first thriller, The Girl on the Train, has been published in over forty languages, has been a No.1 bestseller around the world and is now a major motion picture starring Emily Blunt. Into the Water is her second thriller.
Originally published: 6 January 2015
Original language: English
Genres: Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Fiction