“The Girl on the Train” is a 2015 thriller novel and a New York Times best-seller by Paula Hawkins. With the release of its film adaptation in theaters last month, it is a great time to take a look at the novel that inspired it.

It’s worth noting that the first few chapters are a little weaker than the rest of the book, especially on the first read. Hawkins packs in a ton of detail, which can leave a reader confused about where to focus.

At times, details are thrown into the story without much context or meaning. Early on, this can be especially jarring, because the quantity of detail can be really overwhelming when the reader is trying to understand the setup for the storyline.

This results in a messy and unclear first few chapters, and while this attempts to create “mystery,” it can be more disorienting than mysterious.

That being said, the book as a whole reads so well that I can see why it’s been widely called “compulsively readable.” Once it gets going, it unfolds in a way that keeps the suspense up without feeling forced.

The details and characters become clearer, but Hawkins does this well enough that the work’s twists come with all the surprise a thrill-seeking reader would hope for.

Hawkins manages to build complexity that’s intentional, but feels organic. Readers are thrown in a little over their heads at the outset — I had a hard time telling the perspective characters apart early on — but Hawkins knows how to emphasize the important details to unravel the story at a natural pace without sacrificing suspense.

I went into this book a little skeptical (or on the rails, as it were) — I’m pretty unfamiliar with thrillers as a genre, so I anticipated some vapid easy reading with a little violence or sex to keep readers’ interest.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Hawkins includes far more than just a straightforward plot: the book covers heavy topics like alcoholism, infertility, deeply-rooted mistrust and mental health.

Hawkins manages to illustrate how these factors impact the characters in surprising ways without weighing down the story unnecessarily.

While “The Girl on the Train” was readable and had its fair share of thrills, it also benefits from a complex narrative and a solid storyline that a reader might not expect from this genre.

Whether you’re a seasoned reader of thrillers or looking to read something new, I’d definitely recommend giving “The Girl on the Train” a try.

Quick Facts:

Book: “The Girl on the Train” (2015)

Author: Paula Hawkins

Rating: 8/10 ◼︎

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