Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins

This book is one of the most talked about novels in 2015 and for the life of me, I can't understand why.


The premise of this story is like a poorly written episode of Desperate Housewives.  It centers around Rachel Watson, a divorcee alcoholic who is obsessed with her ex-husband and his new family.  She rides a train each day that passes her old neighborhood and catches brief glimpses of the lives of families living on Blenheim Road, longing to return to her former life.  One day, she witnesses a startling event that later develops into the disappearance of Megan Hipwell, one of the residents on Blenheim Road.  Rachel embarks on a journey to solve Megan's disappearance and immerses herself into the middle of a murder investigation.


I am baffled by the popularity of this book.  The story is narrated by three different female characters, all of whom are rather pathetic: Rachel (divorced woman), Anna (wife of Rachel's ex-husband), and Megan (neighbor).  These women essentially possess identical flaws - they turn to alcohol when they are stressed, engage in irrational and unhealthy behaviors (ex. snooping in their partner's email/phone to discover a lie or engaging in inappropriate affairs), and they become fixated on their failures as wives and mothers.  None of these women are emotionally or mentally stable, and they are basically the same character.  


We're supposed to be gripped by Megan Hipwell's "mysterious" disappearance and feel sorry for these women, but I felt nothing.  I like flawed characters, but there needs to be some redeeming feature that makes me want to root for them even if I disagree with their motives or logic.  Unfortunately, I didn't find anything enjoyable about these characters or the story as a whole.  As far as the so-called "mystery" is concerned, it is evident early on who is responsible for Megan's disappearance.  Rachel's constant blackouts due to her perpetual state of drunkenness are overly convenient barriers to solving the mystery until the moment arises in the narrative that she miraculously remembers a key detail when it's needed the most.  I wish I enjoyed it more than I did, but the book and its characters were so contrived I couldn't take the story seriously.