The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins was published in 2015. Before becoming a novelist, she was a journalist for fifteen years. Originally born in Zimbabwe, Hawkins now lives in London and has one other book, Into the Water.
The Girl on the Train follows the story of Rachel Watson, a divorcee with no job, living with a friend from college. Every day, she takes the train into London, where she spends her time going to libraries and pubs. On this train, she passes by the house of a young, beautiful couple that she has named Jess and Jason. She has become invested in their lives and has created elaborate backstories for them in her head. Rachel is an alcoholic, an unreliable narrator, but she is also a sympathetic character, and we want to believe what she has to say, especially about the couple that is described as the epitome of perfection. That is, until Rachel sees something that changes the perfect ideal she has created. Her information is pertinent to a police investigation, but will they believe her?
This novel is an intense psychological thriller, one that makes us question everything we are reading. Every character has a secret, from Rachel to her ex-husband to Jason and Jess. Hawkins does an incredible job with unreliable narration, making this an exciting read from start to finish. However, a lot of time is spent focusing on the fact that Rachel is an alcoholic, just reinforcing the fact that she is not to be trusted. While this fact is necessary to the story, the details seem a little tedious, like when we read of Rachel opening her third gin and tonic on the same train ride. Overall, though, the story draws you in, making the reader want to turn the page until it’s over.