“The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins
Text type: extended text (novel)
“The Girl on the Train” written by Paula Hawkins is a novel about a woman who is a severe alcoholic and often suffers from blackouts and memory loss which becomes relevant one Saturday night when a young woman, Megan Hipwell, goes missing. Rachel, ‘the girl on the train’ cannot remember all the details of this night but knows that she was in the same area as where Megan went missing from. The text follows her journey to find out what happened on this night and regain her memory of it however along the way she gets tangled up with other characters and in her own lies.
I liked how the author Paula Hawkins structured the text and wrote it from the point of view of 3 different characters: Megan, Rachel and Anna, three woman that is revealed at the end of the text, all have had or have relations with Tom, the revealed killer of Megan. Without knowing this throughout the majority of the text, at the beginning I noticed that it is quite confusing for the reader to understand why all of these 3 characters are present and why the text keeps switching between them as narrators. However as the novel progresses I think Hawkin’s use of this technique becomes effective and beneficial for the text and the reader’s understanding. For example she uses it to show different perspectives on the same situation: from Rachel’s perspective “ when I looked up I saw them: Tom, pushing a buggy, and Anna at his side. They stopped dead when they saw me. Anna raised her hand to her mouth and swooped down to grab her child. The lioness protecting her cub. I wanted to laugh at her, to tell her, I’m not here for you, I couldn’t be less interested in your daughter” whereas in the next chapter from Anna’s perspective, “She comes out of the front door and stands there for a second, sees us and stops dead. It’s horrible. She gives us the strangest smile, a grimace almost, and I can’t help myself, I lunge forward and grab Evie out of her buggy.” This technique that Hawkins used helped me to understand how the different characters felt about each other however it also confused me because I wasn’t sure what was actually happening, as the perspectives were always different; I wasn’t sure which person’s recount of the event to trust. In a way, I think this is good how Hawkins did this though because it adds to the mystery of the novel which is the whole purpose of the story.
Something that Hawkins also frequently brings up throughout the text is the problem of alcoholism. Rachel has a major battle with being an alcoholic which is the main root of many of her problems, which also in turn lead to become other people’s problems as well, such as Tom, her ex husband/Megan’s killer. I think the way Hawkins entwined this issue into the text, not only added more events and interest to the novel but also gave the reader a more serious message about alcohol and how it can very easily take over your life if you let it. By making Rachel’s alcohol problem or just anyone drinking alcohol in general the cause for most of the negative events in the text, I realised as a reader the impact that it can have on people’s life and how people always automatically turn to it as a solution when things aren’t going as they want it to. It is brought up especially because this is the reason Rachel is so interested in that night, because she cannot remember because of the excessive amount of alcohol she drank, as well as in more intimate situations such as when Tom held Rachel and Anna both captive, they were all drinking beer during this situation. In a way, I empathised with Rachel because of this reason; because she was always blamed and being made to look like the bad guy because she had a drinking problem however many of the other characters like Tom were just as bad. It showed my that you can still do the same terrible things by drinking once, that you can by drinking every day. For example when Tom had been drinking for the afternoon and after he held his wife and ex wife captive while trying to kill one of them whereas, Rachel had been drinking non stop for 2 or 3 days yet the worst thing she did was turn up to Tom and Anna’s house hurling verbal abuse at them and just trying to speak to Tom.I valued this message that Hawkins brought across in her text through this aspect because we don’t generally think of it this way and for this reason I think, even though it can be a controversial issue and hit home for some people, that it was good that Hawkins had this in the text.
Overall I really enjoyed “The Girl on the Train” and I would recommend it to anyone who likes mystery novels or just a novel that will make you think. Personally, through the characters of Rachel and Tom, it opened my eyes up to issues like alcohol and the way we use it/ the consequences it has on our actions. I liked the way Hawkins structured the text and I think overall that it helped to deepen the reader’s understanding of what she was trying to portray. Hawkins use of characters, plot and structure all helped to add something to the text and as a whole helped me as a reader to understand her intention for the novel better and to understand and enjoy the text.