Gransnet forums

Books/book club

The Girl on the Train - March 2015 Book club

(129 Posts)
LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Mon 02-Mar-15 14:41:58

We hope you've all been enjoying this fantastic book (we certainly have!) - do add your comments and questions for the author Paula Hawkins below.

More about the book itself here.

p.s since there are so many plot twists and turns in this one, remember not to give away any spoilers on the thread! ...or clearly signpost them so a reader has time to avert their eyes if need be!

joannapiano Mon 23-Mar-15 12:53:08

The character Rachel has something in common with me. (No, I'm not an unemployed alcoholic).
Occasionally, I travel on a train that goes past the road where we lived for 30 years. I always sit on the seats that have the best view of our old house. I must admit, I've never seen anyone in the garden although I get quite excited when I notice the bathroom window is open!
It's a really interesting book and a jolly good idea for a whodunit.

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Mon 23-Mar-15 13:21:28

Ha joanna I often drive past the flat where I used to live and always look to see if I can see anything

(note it was a first floor flat and I am talking casual glance rather than scary stalker up a ladder)

GrandmaH Mon 23-Mar-15 16:38:06

I read this book really quickly as I was aware that I didn't have long to read it as it arrived quite late- to be honest I don't think I requested it but glad I got it!
I did enjoy the story but I thought the beginning of the book was better than the end. I didn't like any of the characters with the exception of the flatmate & I'd like to have had the red haired man to have had a part of the story- I appreciate he was a bit of a red herring for a while.
The women were more sympathetically portrayed than the men I feel. I know Rachel needed to get her act together but she was a pain & I doubt anyone would have put up with her behaviour for long. Similarly, Megan really needed to keep seeing a counsellor & I doubt any professional would have started a relationship with her.
There were a lot of issues not addressed but it is fiction!
I can see it would be a good book for a reading group- I'll certainly do it at ours before long.
I did enjoy it but will not rush to see the film. PLEASE tell me they haven't changed the identity of the murderer!!! I get so fed up with films changing the story to fit in with US audience's expectations.

goose1964 Tue 24-Mar-15 10:39:12

I've now reasit & it is a good story but sees to have totally disfunctional characters

annodomini Tue 24-Mar-15 11:19:13

I stayed in bed finishing the book this morning - couldn't get up until I'd reached the end. What a skilfully written novel! Reading it is like taking the layers off an onion, gradually finding out more and more of the background through the eyes of the three women. Definitely a book group choice sooner rather than later.

avery64 Wed 25-Mar-15 18:35:04

Hubby and I really enjoyed Girl on the Train although initially we found it a bit hard to follow as the narrative keeps alternating between three of the characters. So well written though and I just didn't see the ending coming. It left a smile on my face.

PaulaHawkins Mon 30-Mar-15 10:14:18



I read my copy of this book over the weekend. Its intriguing use of the observations of someone who commutes on a train at the same time every day, looking into other people's homes and gardens (I've done it myself) is clever. I found it a bit difficult to accept that all the main characters were a bit (or more than a bit) unhinged. I didn't really feel sorry for any of them (except perhaps Megan) and usually I've a lot of sympathy for flawed characters.

The description of an "alcoholic black-out" is extremely accurate and forms an important part of the story - my question to the author is how did you come to write about that with so much insight?

This was one of the few areas of the book which required proper research: I read about the phenomenon of alcoholic blackouts, which are a mysterious thing: they do not affect all drinkers, nor do those susceptible to blackout experience them every time they drink to excess. The fact that blackouts are such a strange phenomenon is useful for the fiction writer, because it means that I could play around with Rachel’s experiences a bit. It’s important too that the critical moment which Rachel is struggling to remember occurs when she’s had a traumatic experience and a blow to the head – two other factors which could influence her memory of events.

PaulaHawkins Mon 30-Mar-15 10:19:58


Thank you for The Girl on the Train which is fascinating & I can imagine sitting on the commuter train & peering into other's lives as you flash by their houses. The start reminds me a bit of a Bridget Jones novel. Gazing out of the train window will certainly never be the same again! Very clever idea & plenty to keep the reader hooked to the end. How does the author Paula Hawkins get her first novel 'optioned for film by DreamWorks'?


Firstly, I must say that I found this book a real page turner, enjoyed the plot and didn’t guess the ending (TBH, I rarely do). I always like this style of writing – the various (often misleading) viewpoints, the frequent changes in perspective – and with the short, dated chapters I found it easy to follow the sequence of events.

Having said that, I didn’t like a single character in the book, and usually I stop reading if I can’t empathise with at least one of them. Not one of the main female characters showed any sign of being their own woman - they all seemed set on having a man to look after them and defined by their roles as arm candy. And the men were just obnoxious. There were a lot of coincidences and convenient periods of memory loss, but I appreciate that these were a necessary plot device to move the action on.

Apparently there’s a film in the offing. What a shame Hitchcock’s not about to make it! My question to the author would be:

The Girl on the Train seems destined to be a box office hit. Did you start to write the book with this in mind?

My agent in London sent a copy of the manuscript to an agent in Los Angeles, Dreamworks expressed an interest early on, so in fact a deal was in place around six months before the book was published. I am not working on the adaptation, but I understand that the script is in its second draft and that the studio is looking for a director at the moment.

There are cinematic elements to this story, but I certainly did write it with a film in mind. What works on the page and what works on screen are two very different things, and I am definitely in the novelist (rather than the screenwriter) camp.

A couple of people have also asked about casting: I have no say in who will play the characters in the film, and in any case I think I would make a very poor casting agent! I don’t have strong views about the best actors for the roles.

PaulaHawkins Mon 30-Mar-15 10:20:55


Thank you for my copy of Girl on the Train. Although it was a gripping read and I thoroughly enjoyed it, I did find at times that I was getting mixed up with the various characters and I had to keep checking back on the timelines. I would like to know how Paula Hawkins kept track of the stories and timelines of the different characters as she was writing the novel.

It was a tricky book to plot: I built it up in layers, starting with Rachel’s narrative and then introducing Megan’s over the top of that. I knew that the different timelines might throw the reader at first, but I hoped that once a rhythm was established the connections and intersections between the two would become apparent. Another major challenge for me was differentiating between the voices of the three narrators: because they are all women of similar ages and backgrounds, I had to work hard to make sure that their voices and outlooks were distinct.

PaulaHawkins Mon 30-Mar-15 10:22:33



I read The Girl On The Train in two days this week. I enjoyed the book but more or less guessed who the murderer was quite early in the book, despite the red herring at Scott and Megan's house. The strong smell of disinfectant and later a mention of a smell of something rotting. All three women characters were damaged in some way and had issues which would not make for an easy life. I began by thinking Rachel was just a hopeless alcoholic but came to see that she was a victim of circumstances. Megan's story was sad too and she did not deserve the ending she got. Anna, I believe, was quite ruthless and despite her getting her man she didn't get the happy ever after.
I would like to have seen justice carried out and not the sudden ending, was Tom also damaged ? we know nothing of his background other than the lies he told. Perhaps Paula Hawkins feels a sequel may arise from this book, Rachel and Anna now have a secret they share which will bind them together forever and will little Evie get to know about her father ?
This book was different from other crime thrillers because the police are not in the forefront and the emphasis is on the observer from the train.

To me, Tom is somewhere on the psychopath scale: a charming, shallow man who lies easily, who deludes himself that he is a good husband and father, who believes that it is acceptable to manipulate others – particularly those he views as weak – to get what he wants. Because of the way the story is told, Tom’s background had to be a shadowy, hidden thing.

I have no plans for a sequel at the moment, but I do like to wonder about what might happen if Rachel and Anna's paths crossed somewhere down the line. I think Anna, who is not all that dissimilar to Tom in some ways, would do just about anything to protect herself and her child. I also think that because of that she is unlikely to ever let Evie know the truth about who her father was and what he did – I can see them leaving the country and starting over with new names and new identities.

PaulaHawkins Mon 30-Mar-15 10:24:17


Thank you for my copy of this book which I've just finished. It was hard to have empathy with any of the characters and Rachels drunken exploits made for uncomfortable reading. Was this the author's intention? I did, however, really enjoy this modern 'whodunnit' and liked the way that the guilty party finally evolved.
I had to concentrate hard on the dates at the top of the chapters, as the story moved back in time with Megan's story.
Spoiler alert!
One story-line wasn't actually resolved ( unless I missed it) and that was ; who let the police know about Megan's first child?Was it Kamal?



Thank you for my copy - I thought it a terrific read. My question sort of echoes others in that it's about the fact that none of the characters were very likeable. I wondered were you tempted to make Anna nicer? Certainly my first impressions of her were very good but they became progressively less so

When it comes to character, I think credibility is more important than likability. In Rachel, we are seeing a woman at rock bottom, which I think should be a deeply uncomfortable experience – the reality of alcoholism is an ugly thing. However, I do believe that it is possible to develop some sympathy (even affection!) for Rachel as the course of the book goes on, and as we witness her struggling to come to terms with her depression and her addiction.

No, I never wanted to soften Anna – quite the opposite in fact. At first we see her as a victimised and rather nervous mother, but as the book progresses we realise that she has steel at her core, and she's actually very self-interested.

PaulaHawkins Mon 30-Mar-15 10:25:24


Thank you for my copy of this book which I've just finished. It was hard to have empathy with any of the characters and Rachels drunken exploits made for uncomfortable reading. Was this the author's intention? I did, however, really enjoy this modern 'whodunnit' and liked the way that the guilty party finally evolved.
I had to concentrate hard on the dates at the top of the chapters, as the story moved back in time with Megan's story.
Spoiler alert!
One story-line wasn't actually resolved ( unless I missed it) and that was ; who let the police know about Megan's first child?Was it Kamal?

Yes, it's never made explicit, but Scott speculates that the story came from Kamal Abdic: the therapist keeps this information secret, protecting his patient's confidentiality, until he knows for certain that Megan is dead; at which point he tells the police about it, believing that it could be relevant to her death.

PaulaHawkins Mon 30-Mar-15 10:26:45


I would like to ask the author if she really thinks someone on a train could make out silver birds on the earrings of someone sitting in a railside garden. grin (Sorry to nitpick)

The scene in which Rachel 'sees' Megan's earrings is actually a dream – she dreams that she sees Scott killing his wife. But there is a good point to be made her about perception: we cannot be completely sure about what Rachel really does see, because (in the early stages of the book especially), she is a fantasist: she talks about Megan's perfect bone structure and Scott's laugh, too – these are things she's conjured up for herself on the course of her train journeys.

PaulaHawkins Mon 30-Mar-15 10:32:02


I really enjoyed reading The Girl on the Train as psychological thrillers seem to have gone out of fashion in favour of character led police whodunnits.

Paula, I'd like to ask if any particular authors have influenced your writing and will your next book be in the same genre?

Yes, the next book will be in the same genre, although there will be more of a police presence in that book. I really enjoy the work of authors like Harriet Lane, Louise Doughty and Tana French. Kate Atkinson is also a favourite.

PaulaHawkins Mon 30-Mar-15 10:34:37


Another who loved the book. I thought the character of Rachel was especially well-drawn. One was almost sucked into her hopelessness (which became quite understandable towards the end of the book). I wondered if anyone close to you had been through similar struggles with alcohol which maybe helped you shape her so well


If I had one question to ask the author, it would be how much of the book is from experience, how much from research and how much from imagination.


You described the feelings of marital betrayal in Rachel's story so acutely, and also the loss of a child for Megan, that I wondered whether you have been affected personally by either of these difficult events? What was the inspiration for their stories?

I have known people who have struggled with alcohol – perhaps not in quite the same way, or to quite the same degree, as Rachel does, but I have witnessed the effect that addiction can have on people’s self-esteem, on their judgement and on their perception of the world around them.

The other issues discussed in the book – betrayal, infertility – are, sadly, common enough. Again, I’m not writing about specific experiences which have affected me, but about those which I’ve witnessed or read about, or heard about from friends.

None of the people in the book are real: there might be elements of their characters which I have stolen from people I know, there might be aspects of me in some of them, but they are largely works of the imagination.

PaulaHawkins Mon 30-Mar-15 10:35:32


Having read the reviews I was looking forward to this, but it was a slow burn and not the page turner I expected. I found it predicable and disappointing in the end.

Have you seen an event that disturbed YOU when travelling by train Paula?

The most disturbing thing I've ever seen was actually from a platform, not train - I saw a drunk man fall onto to the tracks in Paris. Fortunately he was hauled up before the next train came along.

PaulaHawkins Mon 30-Mar-15 10:36:27


One of the reasons I loved this books is because I have always been a compulsive imaginer about people I see from trains. Many years ago I used to commute into town and every day would see a small red haired girl on the balcony of a block of dilapidated flats. I made up a whole life for her and over 30 years later do wonder how things really turned out for her. Are you the same Paula and is this what got you thinking?

I am! I've had many commutes over the course of my working career in London, and I've always loved those parts of the journey where you can look into the houses and imagine what sort of lives their inhabitants might be living. It was on one of these commutes that I started idly wondering about what I would do if I saw something shocking, such as an act of violence - and that's where the germ of the idea for The Girl on the Train was planted.

middleagespread Wed 01-Apr-15 12:13:05

Finished just after the deadline, had to read until 1 a.m!
The start was slow to get going, rather like a steam train pulling out of the station and the three main characters all quite similar. However, maybe this is an indication that they are destined to succumb to the charms of Tom. The repetitive style was again, much like the rolling of a train, steady, predictable and with little change in pace to satisfy my urge to read on. However, towards the end when everything slotted into place the story came to life. However my main issue is the lack of empathy I felt with the girls. Tom and Scott too were very similar, maybe to confuse? The writing style is enjoyed, accomplished and I would try another book from Paula Hawkins.

franjo Wed 01-Apr-15 20:52:10

Thank you very much for my copy of The girl on the train, very cleverly written but I wish I could have had a long spell of time to read it rather than short spurts where I had to pick up on the character of the chapter in question. I shall try rereading it at a later time having already leant it to a relative.
I also like looking at other travellers and imagining ther lives then being surprised if I get talking to any of them what kind of people they actually are!

GrannySue2010 Thu 02-Apr-15 11:09:03

My thanks also for the book which I am in the middle of reading. The unusual style of writing takes a bit of getting used to but currently my sympathy lies with Rachel whose low self-esteem appears to be no fault of her own. Having never commuted in London or anywhere else I have had no experience of imagining the lives of others though I do often wonder about people I see in cafés or restaurants. People watching is a popular pastime for me and my husband when in the south of France! I wonder Paula if you have based your characters (female and male) on yourself or friends and if so will they be able to recognise themselves? I'm looking forward to finishing it and have not read the spoilers so have no idea how it ends!

Riverwalk Fri 03-Apr-15 12:25:20

I thought the book was a real page-turner and didn't guess who the killer was!

A few quibbles - I though the violent scenes in the kitchen and hallway sounded a bit unlikely .... the stamping on Tom's foot and kneeing him on his nose and having enough escape time to grab the keys and open the sliding doors to the garden! And his spot-on aim of the beer bottle whilst holding Evie. Maybe women don't write violence convincingly?

The twist at the end with the corkscrew was very unexpected.

I don't usually read Thrillers but would highly recommend this one.

GrannyHaggis Fri 03-Apr-15 14:04:21

Thank you for the book which I thoroughly enjoyed. I found it quite difficult to put down! I have now passed it on to my daughter. It'l be interesting to see what she makes of it.

I particularly enjoyed how the characters interacted and were involved with each other and not always in ways which were expected.

Did you see some clothes lying by a railway line somewhere and take that as a starting point or did you use it as a bit of a red herring to make us wonder ? Maybe the clothes could become another idea for a plot?

I'll certainly look out for other books by Paula and would recommend her to others.

weather Sat 04-Apr-15 13:01:52

A Very interesting read ...I had to finish it to find out who had done it

Honor Mon 13-Apr-15 20:11:14

Thank you for my copy of The Girl on the Train. I agree with several of the other reviewers , that none of the characters were very likeable. However what a great modern film noir the book would make!

sylwright Sat 18-Apr-15 13:24:17

I really enjoyed reading The Girl on the Train, I didn't guess the ending and from half way through the book I didn't want to put it down. It gave me many late nights whilst I kept reading another and another chapter.