• International edition
  • Australia edition
  • Europe edition

Woman on train

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins review – a skilful memory-loss thriller

This much-lauded psychological debut features a woman prone to blackouts and drunk dialling

T here’s nothing new under the sun – or in the world of big-selling commercial fiction – but Paula Hawkins has come up with an ingenious slant on the currently fashionable amnesia thriller. The latest bestselling example is Emma Healey’s Costa-winning debut Elizabeth Is Missing , featuring an elderly woman with dementia. The protagonist of The Girl on the Train is much younger, yet she is unable to remember much about the night a young woman went missing near her old home – blood, an underpass, a blue dress and a man with red hair keep jumbling in her mind.

The narrative is skilfully split between three women whose lives interlink tragically: Rachel, Megan and Anna. We first encounter Rachel on the commute home from London, just another tired worker on her way back to the suburbs – except that she has four cans of pre-mixed gin and tonic in her bag, and that’s only for starters. “It’s Friday, so I don’t have to feel guilty about drinking on the train. TGIF. The fun starts here.”

The journey takes Rachel along the backs of houses on the street where she used to live. Unable to look at number 23, her old home, where ex-husband Tom now lives with new wife Anna, she focuses instead on number 15. She has become obsessed with the beautiful young couple living there, whom she names Jess and Jason. Rachel looks out for the pair every day, daydreaming about their perfect lives. Until one day she sees something that startles her in their garden, and when she reads in the paper that “Jess” – who is really called Megan – has vanished, she decides to tip off the police. She is convinced that “Jason”, now the prime suspect – and really called Scott – would never harm his beloved wife.

But Rachel is prone to blackouts, irrationality and drunk dialling, and the police dismiss her as a rubbernecker. She has also been persecuting Tom and Anna, bombarding them with offensive messages. It is a bold move to create such a flawed female lead; the alcoholic lifestyle with its miserable excuses, urine-soaked underwear and vomit on the stairs is outlined in all its bleak, cyclic predictability.

Rachel is not just weak, occasionally spiteful and self-pitying, but also overweight and relatively unattractive; a sad sack compared with vibrant Megan and glossy, sexy Anna, who glories in her victory over her predecessor. Yet as Hawkins demonstrates, apparently fixed identities and fortunes have their foundation on shifting sands. The more Rachel discovers about the missing Megan, the less she likes her. In a clear echo of Gone Girl (the success of which is presumably why this novel does not bear the more accurate title The Woman on the Train ), Scott, the apparently grieving husband, is likewise more slippery than his charming manner indicates. Anna, too, comes to seem less like an innocent victim and more like a vindictive troublemaker. Tom is a nice guy driven to distraction by his batty ex-wife, but is there something disquieting lurking beneath his calm surface?

Hawkins juggles perspectives and timescales with great skill, and considerable suspense builds up along with empathy for an unusual central character who does not immediately grab the reader. “Ingenious” twists usually violate psychological plausibility, as in Gone Girl . Hawkins’s Girl is a less flashy, but altogether more solid creation.

  • Paula Hawkins

Comments (…)

Most viewed.

  • Skip to main content
  • Keyboard shortcuts for audio player

Book Reviews

'girl on the train' pays homage to hitchcock.

Michael Schaub

The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train

Buy featured book.

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

  • Independent Bookstores

"They are a perfect, golden couple," Rachel Watson thinks, regarding handsome Jason and his striking wife, Jess. "He is dark-haired and well built, strong, protective, kind. He has a great laugh. She is one of those tiny bird-women, a beauty, pale-skinned with blond hair cropped short." Rachel, the main narrator of Paula Hawkins' novel The Girl on the Train , is obsessed with the pair; they represent to her the perfect relationship that she once had, or seemed to, before it imploded spectacularly.

She can't stop thinking about Jason and Jess, but she doesn't know them. She sees them through the windows of a train, one she takes each morning and evening on her commute to and from London. The couple, whose real names are Megan and Scott, live a few houses away from the one Rachel used to occupy, before her alcoholism poisoned her relationship. "They're a match, they're a set," Rachel reflects. "They're happy, I can tell. They're what I used to be, they're Tom and me five years ago. They're what I lost, they're everything I want to be."

When Megan goes missing, Rachel's world, already profoundly messy, shifts even farther off-center. Did Megan run away, or was she kidnapped? What about the man that Rachel saw kissing Megan one morning? Rachel finds herself unable to stay away, and winds up directly in the middle of the investigation, all while trying to deal with her growing addiction to alcohol and her frequent memory lapses.

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 Hawkins' first thriller — she's 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.

Even the most cleverly plotted thrillers don't work without compelling characters, but the people we meet in The Girl on the Train are drawn beautifully. The point of view alternates among three characters: luckless, obsessed Rachel; charming, complicated Megan; and Anna, the new love of Rachel's ex Tom.

Rachel is a wreck. She seeks solace in gin and wine, ignoring her roommate's pleas to get help. She turned to alcohol after she and Tom were unable to conceive a child via in vitro fertilization: "It was, as everyone had warned us it would be, unpleasant and unsuccessful. Nobody warned me it would break us. But it did. Or rather, it broke me, and then I broke us." After that, it didn't take long for her collapse to become complete and total. "I went from being a drinker to being a drunk," she admits, "and there's nothing more boring than that."

Megan's sections flash back in time to before her disappearance. She's manic and voluble, but hasn't quite come to terms with two extremely tragic events in her past. Anna, meanwhile, just wants a quiet, picket-fence kind of existence with Tom and their child. She's grown to hate Rachel, who's having a hard time leaving their family alone, calling Tom frequently during her numerous drunken spells.

Alternating points of view is a tricky prospect; it can easily come off as unnecessary or gimmicky. But Hawkins uses the technique masterfully, giving just enough away each chapter. None of the revelations in The Girl on the Train are tidy, and the picture gets much murkier before the mystery is resolved. Much of the complexity of the novel is due to Rachel, an exceptionally unreliable narrator with a tendency to pass out drunk, forgetting everything that happened the day before.

Hawkins' writing is excellent, and also cinematic, in the best possible way. Her novel doesn't read (as many thrillers do) like a screenplay that's been wrestled kicking and screaming into prose form. But the story, down to the title, is indisputably Hitchcockian, and in some scenes, Hawkins seems to be paying tribute to the director's imagery in films like Strangers on a Train and Rear Window . The ending plays out like a movie scene — perhaps a little too much like one, though it's easy to forgive a little melodrama when the prose that's led up to it is so solid.

But 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. Reflecting on her fellow passengers on her daily train ride to and from London, Rachel thinks, "I recognize them and they probably recognize me. I don't know whether they see me, though, for what I really am." They don't, of course, and they can't. It's hard enough — maybe impossible — for a person even to see herself for what she really is.

UK Edition Change

  • UK Politics
  • News Videos
  • Paris 2024 Olympics
  • Rugby Union
  • Sport Videos
  • John Rentoul
  • Mary Dejevsky
  • Andrew Grice
  • Sean O’Grady
  • Photography
  • Theatre & Dance
  • Culture Videos
  • Fitness & Wellbeing
  • Food & Drink
  • Health & Families
  • Royal Family
  • Electric Vehicles
  • Car Insurance Deals
  • Lifestyle Videos
  • UK Hotel Reviews
  • News & Advice
  • Simon Calder
  • Australia & New Zealand
  • South America
  • C. America & Caribbean
  • Middle East
  • Politics Explained
  • News Analysis
  • Today’s Edition
  • Home & Garden
  • Broadband deals
  • Fashion & Beauty
  • Travel & Outdoors
  • Sports & Fitness
  • Sustainable Living
  • Climate Videos
  • Solar Panels
  • Behind The Headlines
  • On The Ground
  • Decomplicated
  • You Ask The Questions
  • Binge Watch
  • Travel Smart
  • Watch on your TV
  • Crosswords & Puzzles
  • Most Commented
  • Newsletters
  • Ask Me Anything
  • Virtual Events
  • Betting Sites
  • Online Casinos
  • Wine Offers

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in Please refresh your browser to be logged in

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins - book review: Strangers in the suburbs thriller is on the right track

Setting events on dates within the past two years means the novel's world overlaps with our own, article bookmarked.

Find your bookmarks in your Independent Premium section, under my profile

the girl on the train book review guardian

For free real time breaking news alerts sent straight to your inbox sign up to our breaking news emails

Sign up to our free breaking news emails, thanks for signing up to the breaking news email.

Paula Hawkins’ publisher is pitching her debut novel at fans of an American blockbuster. "Looking for another Gone Girl?" the blurb asks. "She’s on the train…" Every weekday, Rachel catches the 08:04 from Ashbury to London and returns on the 17:56 from Euston. What does she do in between? Office work, we expect, until Rachel reveals that, months ago, she was sacked for drunkenness. Even more disconcerting is her obsession with a couple, "Jason and Jess", whose house she passes on her pointless commute.

It’s a good premise for a thriller. Who hasn’t gazed from a train window and imagined the lives of others? Initially, Rachel’s interest in "Jason and Jess" reminded me of the film One Hour Photo in which the late Robin Williams plays a loner who’s fixated on a family who embody the happiness and affluence he lacks. It’s no surprise that Hawkins’ novel, which reveals how Rachel came to crave the life she once had, has been optioned for film.

Her unornamented prose suits the suburban setting. One of the three narrators observes: "It’s a sleepy little street, tidy and affluent, with lots of young families; they’re all having their dinner around seven o’clock, or sitting on the sofa, mum and dad with the little ones squeezed between them, watching X-Factor." Sounds like hell but to Anna, wife of Rachel’s ex-husband Tom, it’s idyllic, or would be if Rachel stopped harassing them. The couple and their daughter live on the same street as "Jason and Jess", in Rachel’s old house, which is just about believable.

Rachel learns from the newspapers that "Jason and Jess" are really Scott and Megan, when the latter goes missing. Rachel believes she has important information because she spotted Megan kissing a mysterious man. We know from chapters narrated by Megan that she was sleeping with her shrink, Kemal, but will the police believe Rachel? Has Kemal bumped off Megan? What about jealous Scott? Or Rachel herself whose memories are clouded by booze? Is somebody else lurking?

The reader’s sympathies and suspicions shift as the story develops. Setting events on dates within the past two years means the novel’s world overlaps with our own, so we can ask ourselves where we were the night Megan disappeared, getting a flavour of the piecing together of recollections that absorbs Rachel. However, Rachel’s alcoholism feels like a plot device, not an illness. There’s too much narration of this ilk: "My head swims, my mouth floods with saliva…" The book explores power, betrayal, relationships, while ratcheting tension. Does it justify the publisher’s comparison? If you can see the bandwagon it’s probably gone.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Subscribe to Independent Premium to bookmark this article

Want to bookmark your favourite articles and stories to read or reference later? Start your Independent Premium subscription today.

New to The Independent?

Or if you would prefer:

Want an ad-free experience?

Hi {{indy.fullName}}

  • My Independent Premium
  • Account details
  • Help centre

The Girl on the Train

By paula hawkins.

'The Girl on the Train' is an intriguing psychological thriller novel that employs suspense, twists, and turns that keep the reader engrossed until the end.


Article written by Fave

B.A. in History and International Studies from University of Ilorin, Kwara State.

This well-written novel own strong themes that knit the story into a tale of obsession and mystery. The characters are confusing and defective, making them relatable. The flexuous storyline of ‘ The Girl on the Train ‘ deters predictability.

The only implicit strike is how frustrating the top character’s addiction to alcohol is. Still, this aspect is pivotal to the plot and adds to the intrigue and suspense.

Switch in Perspectives

The story of ‘The Girl on the Train’ offers different points of view in every part of the story. This style creates anticipatory narratives that captivate the reader. By shifting between the perspectives of Rachel, Megan, and Anna, the author builds a complex story of unreliability and twists linked through trains.

Hawkins uses this technique to control the reader’s knowledge of each event. Known from Rachel’s narrative that Megan was murdered, the reader becomes more anxious when Megan narrates secret activities, such as going out alone at night.

A switch in perspectives also explains the experiences, inspirations, and secrets of the literary figures. The narrators’ stories are connected and eventually unite as the plot climaxes. Critics describe the characters as simplistic and shallow, however. Hawkins insufficiently explores their motivations and experiences.

Melancholic Lives and Complexity of Characters

This novel explores the dilemmas and complexities of the characters. Paula Hawkins skillfully examines issues like excessive interest, addiction, and melancholy.

Rachel, Megan, and Anna’s lives intersect in unpredictable ways. In the book, Rachel is an alcohol abuser with obsessive traits. Divorced and jobless, she finds comfort in riding the train to and fro London daily. She spends time on the train visualizing other people’s lives, especially a couple she sees from the train window. Her sadness and sense of failure haunt her, leading to depression.

Megan is the woman Rachel fantasizes about. Although beautiful and married to a man who loves her, she feels unfulfilled. Her past trauma is unhealed, and she has a history of self-abuse. She is impulsive and miserable. Her quest for excitement leads to a relationship with Tom. This eventually leads to her death.

Anna Watson is Tom’s new wife who pretends to be happily married but deals with apprehension and despair. Though discontented with her duty as just a mother, she throws herself into the work. She feels insecure about Rachel and fears she will lose her home.

Also, ‘The Girl on the Train’ assesses the characters’ complications through their conceptions, emotions, beliefs, and actions. Taking it upon herself to solve the mystery of a missing woman, Rachel becomes tangled in a web of manipulations and lies.

The novel discusses the challenges of human association, particularly between women and men. Characters in the book are multi-layered with scandalous secrets. Although Rachel is not involved in crime, she cannot stop her life from falling apart. Aware of the damaging effects of drunkenness, she still indulges in the habit. Megan has a scarring past that involves child murder.

Initially described as a patient, devoted and caring man, Tom is exposed to be manipulative, deceitful, and murderous. He craftily manages his different identities in the house and outside of it. In ‘The Girl on the Train,’ Hawkins uses the complexity of human behaviors and interactions to drive the story to a gratifying end.

Harmful Effects of Obsession

In ‘The Girl on the Train,’ Hawkins illustrates the dangerous force of obsession and its destructive consequences.

Rachel Watson is the character that struggles the most with obsession. First, her ex-husband and his new family are a victim. She stalks them on and offline. While doing this, she lives in isolation from others.

When Megan and Scott catch her fancy, she stops relating with family and friends and becomes disturbingly focused on their relationship life. Her obsession leads to impulsive and self-destructive choices that affect her and others. She often misremembers events and is considered a suspect during the murder investigation of Megan.

Creatively, Hawkins ventures into Rachel’s struggle with self-doubt. She blames herself for infertility and the failure of her marriage, amplifying her psychiatric disorder. While Rachel unhealthily seeks to solve the case about Megan’s disappearance, she becomes paranoid about everyone. She suspects Megan’s therapist, her husband, and even herself. Her confusing account of Megan’s murder leads the police to the wrong suspect at the beginning.

In ‘The Girl on the Train,’ Hawkins talks about the importance of mental health awareness and care.

A Revealing End

Initially, Tom Watson is a loving and dedicated husband tolerant of his possessive and once-abusive ex-wife.

When Megan disappears, he is the least of the suspects. The reader’s choice of suspect gets manipulated through confusing narratives. In the end, however, Rachel solves the mystery.

Tom is cheating on Anna with Megan and tries to abandon her when he has had enough. Unfortunately, Megan becomes pregnant. When Tom refuses to be involved, she threatens to tell his wife about the affair, and he kills her.

Is Rachel Watson’s character a relatable one?

Yes, she is a relatable character. Flawed and addicted to alcohol, she struggles with the aftermath of a failed marriage. Her pain and depression are elements that people have experienced at different times. Added to this, ‘ The Girl on the Train’ encouraged the conversation about obsession and mental illness among readers.

What is one criticism ‘The Girl on the Train’ received?

Although ‘The Girl on the Train’ became an international bestseller published in over forty countries after its release, critics have found the plot to be emulative and clichéd. Some have even argued that the end was too orderly to be called a psychological thriller.

What makes ‘The Girl on the Train’ a fascinating psychological thriller?

‘The Girl on the Train’ features an unpredictable plot. An obsessive and alcoholic Rachel Watson provides an account characterized by severe memory inaccuracies. Minor characters also possess secrets and opinions that make them appear significant to the novel’s plot. Paula Hawkins’ use of different viewpoints also adds to the novel’s complexity.

Is ‘The Girl on the Train’ a book to read?

Yes, it is. Although some critics have named the unreliable narrator and uncompassionate character a failure of ‘The Girl on the Train,’ many readers have commended it for its appealing prose style and excellent use of various standpoints to create excitement.

The Girl on the Train: Paula Hawkins' Psychological Thriller

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins Book Cover

Book Title: The Girl on the Train

Book Description: Paula Hawkins's 'The Girl on the Train' tells the story of Rachel, a divorced alcoholic who gets involved in a murder investigation.

Book Author: Paula Hawkins

Book Edition: First Edition

Book Format: Hardcover

Publisher - Organization: Riverhead (US) and Doubleday (UK)

Date published: January 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-28007-7

Number Of Pages: 317

  • Writing Style

Join Our Community for Free!

Exclusive to Members

Create Your Personal Profile

Engage in Forums

Join or Create Groups

Save your favorites, beta access.


Fave Ehimwenma is a proficient writer, researcher, and content creator whose love for art and books drives her passion for literature analysis.


About the Book

Discover literature, enjoy exclusive perks, and connect with others just like yourself!

Start the Conversation. Join the Chat.

There was a problem reporting this post.

Block Member?

Please confirm you want to block this member.

You will no longer be able to:

  • See blocked member's posts
  • Mention this member in posts
  • Invite this member to groups

Please allow a few minutes for this process to complete.

The Bibliofile

Advertise   Contact   Privacy

Browse All Reviews

New Releases

List Reviews by Rating

List Reviews by Author

List Reviews by Title

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train

By paula hawkins, a pretty okay thriller slash mystery.

I’ll keep this short-ish, because this book has been reviewed thousands of times already and there’s not much to add. Around the time I started this site, I kept seeing The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins pop up everywhere. I was in the mood for a good mystery and couldn’t find anything that caught my attention so I ended up picking this up before going on a weekend trip to Las Vegas. During the trip, the group wanted to go clubbing, so I put on my clubbing clothes, went out to the hotel party with them, helped the guys get discounted admission and promptly walked out two minutes later. Within fifteen minutes, I was happily back in my pajamas and reading this book in the hotel room. So, that is the type of person I am. Anyway.

Rachel is a woman whose life has unraveled somewhat after the disintegration of her marriage which was prompted by her inability to get pregnant. Her husband is now remarried, living in a neighborhood nearby, and is raising a newborn child. Rachel, meanwhile, now lives with a roommate who tries to be understanding but is increasingly wary of having to put up with her alcoholism (and frequent blackouts) and general not-having-her-shit-togetherness.

Each day, Rachel commutes to job that she was actually fired from some time ago in order to keep up the appearance of being employed. And each day the train passes by the house of a young couple and she wonders about their seemingly-idyllic lives. Her reveries are interrupted one day when she sees the young woman, Megan, kissing another man. Rachel drunkenly decides to find and confront Megan, but ends up blacking out. Soon after, the police show up at her door to question her and she realizes that Megan has gone is missing.

I thought the book was fine and it kept my interest, but I did’t find it particularly inspired. I’m not saying that in a “this book is garbage” kind of way, because it’s not; it’s a perfectly serviceable mystery novel (and it’s certainly better than the garbage movie that they made based off it, which is a shame because I like Emily Blunt). I’m just not sure why it was so popular. As far as mysteries go, it’s fairly standard — accessible, moves along steadily, has a few surprises, and resolves. The characters are generally believable-ish and the plot largely makes sense (though it does involve one pretty large coincidence that I thought was a little too convenient).

Overall, I’d say I still thought it was okay, but I’d take a classic Agatha Christie novel over this any day. I’d recommend Girl on the Train if you’re a fan of the genre and running out of stuff to read, but there’s better stuff out there otherwise. If you haven’t read Tana French, for example, I’d suggest giving her a shot first. I didn’t like this enough to pick up Hawkin’s newest book, Into the Water, but I’d consider reading it if I found it for cheap and someone whose opinion I trust recommended it to me.

Share this post

Bookshelf -- A literary set collection game

Middle of the Night

The Housemaid is Watching

She’s Not Sorry

The Seven Year Slip

Darling Girls

It Finally Happened + Summer Romances

Best Literary Fiction of 2024 (New & Anticipated)

The Housemaid Book Series Recap

2024’s Best Book Club Books (New & Anticipated)

Bookshelf: Development Diary

the girl on the train book review guardian

Share your thoughts Cancel reply

I enjoyed reading The Girl on the Train, and I’ve read her second novel too, but this one is still my favourite. In my opinion it’s better than Into the Water. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

ahh good to know! your blog is really lovely, so anyone reading this should check it out! :)

You have such amazing taste in books! I just followed you because your reviews are great 💕

This one surprised me. I don’t read as much suspense as other kinds of fiction but I liked this book.

I think this novel probably had better character development than some mysteries, so perhaps that’s why? Glad to hear you liked it!

Thank you! Another reason why I’m following your blog. I finished this book, logged it into my Goodreads account and couldn’t believe the reviews describing it as, “a psychological thriller…”. I thought, “are you serious?”. I came back to your blog, searched and read your review. Spot on (sold at, …”Agatha Christie….”). Thank you. I’m sure it won’t be a match every time, but it will be nice to know there’s a go-to place for a trustworthy review.

Hi Sarah, so glad you enjoyed it and thanks for following along the blog! I love hearing about what others thought about these books (even if they disagree)! Cheers!

  • Member Login
  • Library Patron Login



Search: Title Author Article Search String:

Reviews of The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Summary | Excerpt | Reviews | Read-Alikes | Genres & Themes | Author Bio

The Girl on the Train

by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Critics' Opinion:

Readers' Opinion:

Rate this book

Buy This Book

About this Book

Book summary.

"Gripping, enthralling - a top-notch thriller and a compulsive read." - S J Watson, bestselling author of Before I Go To Sleep

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...

Excerpt The Girl on the Train

She's buried beneath a silver birch tree, down towards the old train tracks, her grave marked with a cairn. Not more than a little pile of stones, really. I didn't want to draw attention to her resting place, but I couldn't leave her without remembrance. She'll sleep peacefully there, no one to disturb her, no sounds but birdsong and the rumble of passing trains. •   •   • One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl . . . Three for a girl. I'm stuck on three, I just can't get any further. My head is thick with sounds, my mouth thick with blood. Three for a girl. I can hear the magpies—they're laughing, mocking me, a raucous cackling. A tiding. Bad tidings. I can see them now, black against the sun. Not the birds, something else. Someone's coming. Someone is speaking to me. Now look. Now look what you made me do. RACHEL •   • ...

  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Media Reviews

Reader reviews, read-alikes.

  • Genres & Themes

If you liked The Girl on the Train, try these:

Sometimes I Lie jacket

Sometimes I Lie

by Alice Feeney

Published 2018

About this book

More by this author

My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me: 1. I'm in a coma. 2. My husband doesn't love me anymore. 3. Sometimes I lie.

The Wife Between Us jacket

The Wife Between Us

by Greer Hendricks, Sarah Pekkanen

A novel of suspense that explores the complexities of marriage and the dangerous truths we ignore in the name of love.

Books with similar themes

Support bookbrowse.

Join our inner reading circle, go ad-free and get way more!

Find out more


BookBrowse Book Club

Book Jacket

Who Said...

In war there are no unwounded soldiers

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Solve this clue:

L T C O of the B

and be entered to win..

Your guide to exceptional           books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

Subscribe to receive some of our best reviews, "beyond the book" articles, book club info and giveaways by email.

Free Weekly Newsletters

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books: reviews, previews, interviews and more.

Spam Free : Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.

Den of Geek

The Girl on the Train Review

Emily Blunt stars in the screen version of Paula Hawkins’ massive best-selling mystery. Read our review...

the girl on the train book review guardian

  • Share on Facebook (opens in a new tab)
  • Share on Twitter (opens in a new tab)
  • Share on Linkedin (opens in a new tab)
  • Share on email (opens in a new tab)

Rachel Watson rides a Metro-North commuter train every morning and every evening from Westchester County to Manhattan and back, staring wistfully out the window at the landscape and houses that she passes on each trip. Divorced, alcoholic, the remnants of her life in a dissolute downward spiral, Rachel focuses wistfully — and then obsessively — on two houses she passes each day and the couples who live inside, seemingly entranced with each other in picture perfect marriages. But nothing is ever what it seems to be on the surface, as Rachel finds out when one of those women goes missing and Rachel herself cannot account for the same blacked-out hours in her own crumbling memory.

That is the basic set-up for The Girl on the Train , the new movie from director Tate Taylor ( The Help ) based on the surprise international best seller by Paula Hawkins. The book by Hawkins was told in the voices of three different women: Rachel, new housewife Megan Hipwell and Anna Watson, the current wife of Rachel’s ex Tom, on whom Rachel has an unhealthy fixation as well. The shifting points of view were meant in the book to portray the different views and emotional textures of the same events from a trio of three distinct female characters, but in the movie Taylor and screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson have put most of the narrative burden on the unreliable Rachel. That’s both a good and bad thing.

The good news is that Rachel is played by Emily Blunt in a terrific performance that carries most of the story and film, even if we are only seeing certain events through Rachel’s fractured consciousness. But Blunt’s restless, fragile yet unstable habitation of Rachel — right down to her drink-reddened, blotchy skin — gives the movie most of its suspense: just what is this woman capable of? We can’t help but feel a squirm of fear during one moment where she wanders into the home she used to share with Tom (Justin Theroux) and strolls outside holding his and Anna’s (Rebecca Ferguson) new baby — but Blunt makes sure we feel a twinge of sympathy as well.

The bad news is that everyone else gets a bit of a raw deal. Ferguson and Haley Bennett, who plays Megan, do their best to flesh out their characters as well as Blunt develops Rachel, but we don’t get nearly as deep into their psyches and they come off as chess pieces more than fully realized women, doing only what the story needs them to. The men in the film — Theroux, Luke Evans as Megan’s husband and Edgar Ramirez as the therapist who treats two of the women, and one of them with more than his notepad and soothing voice — fare even worse, with their characters ranging from detached to permanently angry to outright abusive.

Ad – content continues below

The Girl on the Train is still entertaining, however, despite the character issues and Taylor’s workmanlike and occasionally jumbled direction. It propels itself along as a trashy, beach-read mystery, feeding the viewer just enough bits of information and sort-of-juicy revelations to keep us watching (the transposition from the London suburbs to New York seems to have had minimal impact on the storyline). But the director, with his attempts at arty stylistic flourishes, seems to want this to be far more profound than it actually is. There have already been a lot of comparisons made between this film and David Fincher’s Gone Girl , and aside from having the disappearance of a married woman as a central plot hook (and the word “girl” in the title), there are not a whole lot of similarities between the two — especially in their ultimate effect.

Gone Girl made some brutally frank statements about marriage and celebrity culture and left one profoundly uneasy about both; The Girl on the Train says very little about either and ends with a gag straight out of an ‘80s slasher movie. Neither film is great art (well, Gone Girl is closer to it, thanks to Fincher’s always elegant direction), but one knows that it’s not and uses its sleazier aspects to comment on the story we’re watching, while the other thinks that the lurid melodrama alone is enough. And to some extent, it is: driven by Blunt’s thoroughly watchable performance, The Girl on the Train is the cinematic equivalent of any number of water-stained, dog-eared paperbacks you might find nestled in the sandy bottom of someone’s canvas beach bag. But like those books, the movie is absorbed and mostly dispensed with even as you’re walking out of the theater. It’s fun, but you won’t even need Rachel’s troubled psyche for it to vanish from your memory by the time you get home.

The Girl on the Train is in theaters Friday (October 7).

Join Amazon Prime – Watch Thousands of Movies & TV Shows Anytime – Start Free Trial Now

3.5 out of 5

Don Kaye

Don Kaye | @donkaye

Don Kaye is an entertainment journalist by trade and geek by natural design. Born in New York City, currently ensconced in Los Angeles, his earliest childhood memory is…

  • Biggest New Books
  • Non-Fiction
  • All Categories
  • First Readers Club Daily Giveaway
  • How It Works

the girl on the train book review guardian

The Girl on the Train

the girl on the train book review guardian

Embed our reviews widget for this book

the girl on the train book review guardian

Get the Book Marks Bulletin

Email address:

  • Categories Fiction Fantasy Graphic Novels Historical Horror Literary Literature in Translation Mystery, Crime, & Thriller Poetry Romance Speculative Story Collections Non-Fiction Art Biography Criticism Culture Essays Film & TV Graphic Nonfiction Health History Investigative Journalism Memoir Music Nature Politics Religion Science Social Sciences Sports Technology Travel True Crime

July 17, 2024

fabulosa books

  • Fabulosa Books is shipping queer books to conservative states, for free
  • Was Hillbilly Elegy ever good?
  • Jonathan Lethem on the museums and graffiti of his childhood


  1. The Girl On The Train Book Review and Summary

    the girl on the train book review guardian

  2. "The Girl on the Train" Book Review: A Gripping Psychological Thriller

    the girl on the train book review guardian

  3. The Girl on the Train Book Review

    the girl on the train book review guardian

  4. The girl on the Train

    the girl on the train book review guardian

  5. Book review

    the girl on the train book review guardian

  6. "The Girl on the Train" by Paula Hawkins: A Book Review

    the girl on the train book review guardian


  1. “The girl on the train” Book Review

  2. E-Train's book recommendations!

  3. E-Train's January book review!

  4. E-Train's book review, with a special guest!

  5. This girl missed the train because of this 😂

  6. YA Book Review: Guardian


  1. The Guardian

    We would like to show you a description here but the site won’t allow us.

  2. Book Review: 'The Girl On The Train,' By Paula Hawkins | : NPR

    Paula Hawkins' gripping new thriller begins with bitter, dissolute Rachel, who sees what she believes to be a perfect couple, every morning on the train to work — and then one day, the wife is...

  3. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins - book review: Suburban

    The Girl on the Train is a tight thriller with some refreshingly realistic nasty characterisation and an intricate interweaving of narrative voices, but its narrow vision lacks some...

  4. ‘The Girl on the Train,’ by Paula Hawkins - The New York Times

    To the limited scope of a window frame, the former London journalist Paula Hawkins, in her debut thriller, “The Girl on the Train,” offers a few additional obfuscations. First, her...

  5. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins - book review ...

    The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins - book review: Strangers in the suburbs thriller is on the right track. Setting events on dates within the past two years means the novel's world...

  6. The Girl on the Train Review: Hawkins Psychological Thriller

    This novel explores the dilemmas and complexities of the characters. Paula Hawkins skillfully examines issues like excessive interest, addiction, and melancholy. Rachel, Megan, and Anna’s lives intersect in unpredictable ways. In the book, Rachel is an alcohol abuser with obsessive traits.

  7. Book Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins - The ...

    Book Review, Synopsis and Plot Summary for The Girl on the Train. I’ll keep this short-ish, because this book has been reviewed thousands of times already.

  8. Reviews of The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins - BookBrowse

    The Girl on the Train, Hawkins’s first thriller, is well-written and ingeniously constructed. The Guardian (UK) Paula Hawkins has come up with an ingenious slant on the currently fashionable amnesia thriller. . . .

  9. The Girl on the Train Review | Den of Geek

    Rachel Watson rides a Metro-North commuter train every morning and every evening from Westchester County to Manhattan and back, staring wistfully out the window at the landscape and houses that...

  10. Book Marks reviews of The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

    The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins has an overall rating of Positive based on 7 book reviews.