Book Club: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Henpicked’s book of the month for October 2016

We had a fabulous month of reading and discussing How to Build a Girl last month. A huge thank you to our Champions and to all the Henpicked community for their comments and input. We were delighted to hear from everyone with their observations.

We’re really excited to announce that Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins will be our book for October. This fast paced psychological thriller has been in the top ten booklists since its initial publication and we can’t wait to get reading.

To add to the excitement, Girl on the Train has been made into a film which launches in the UK on 7 October!

The author, Paula Hawkins, together with Emily Blunt, who plays one of the main roles in the film, will be on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour on Friday 30 September. You may want to listen in so click here to link through to the Woman’s Hour webpage.

We’re looking for book Champions so if you would like to volunteer, please let us know. We give each of our Champions a FREE copy of the book of the month and once you’ve read it, we’d love to hear your views!

Just like last month, we’ll let our book club subscribers have some key points about the book to think about throughout the month and in the meantime, please do get reading!

Feel free to jump into the discussion about the book at any time during the month using Disqus which is ready and waiting for you and shows up at the bottom of this page – its free to sign up and once you are logged in, you can comment at will on the Henpicked website.

Thank you to everyone who made suggestions for our book of the month. We had a good selection of books and these included The Mandibles by Lionel Shriver, The Miniaturist by Jesse Burton, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and Us by David Nicholls. It wasn’t easy to make a choice! Do please keep the recommendations coming.

Please share news of our book club with your friends and encourage them to sign up and join our book club. You don’t need to be a member to comment but signing up will ensure that you receive our regular newsletters so that we can keep you updated with events.

We welcome you all and remember there is no right or wrong with reading – everyone’s opinion counts. Happy reading during October!

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From the Henpicked team!

  • Imogen Jamieson

    This one has been on my list of “must reads” for months! Can’t wait to get going…

  • Deborah Garlick

    My daughter said it’s fabulous so I’m really looking forward to it. Was going to see the film but would rather read the book.

  • It appears to cost less on Amazon in paperback than as a Kindle book – rather unusual.

  • Caroline Exley

    Well that is the quickest I’ve read a book for a while. I thoroughly enjoyed it and the way it’s written. The characters were good and solid. When I started it I didn’t really have any expectations as it’s unlikely I would have chosen it myself. I’m not going to say too much and spoil any of the plot, but I will say I thought it was very clever 🙂

    • Imogen Jamieson

      that’s one of the great things about a book club Caroline! It takes you to a book you wouldn’t normally find yourself reading and its so fab when you then enjoy it!

  • Jeanne Ellin

    Very cleverly written, like a striptease the characters reveal themselves with some interesting mirroring between them. Still halfway through and reading steadily

    • Deborah Garlick

      One bit just unlocked it all for me, and then suddenly it all unfolded! Good stuff!

  • Imogen Jamieson

    This was a super speedy read! A page turner and I would recommend it to friends as an enjoyable (and fast paced) piece of escapism! I think that one of the big hooks of the book is that sitting on a train and looking out at others is so commonplace! I have been on a train and observed the houses of others (although not in nearly so dramatic style as Rachel!) and I expect that lots of others have done the same so its instantly relatable. The three main women in the book are all interesting characters and I enjoyed all/most of the side characters too (couldn’t there be a whole other book about Cathy and her relationship with Damian?! Rachel’s observations on their relationship were amusing). Rachel’s tale was sad and although I found her frustrating at times, I found I cared about her and felt sympathy towards her right through the book. I didn’t particularly warm to Megan at first but when I learnt her backstory I felt utterly wretched for her. Her life was so broken and the bath incident was totally devastating. I thought the book had good baddies (!) and some great humour in amongst all the tragedy – that moment in the coffee shop with Rachel and her ex colleagues was toe-curlingly painful – poor Rachel. Amazingly for me, I did guess the ending.
    Overall, I really enjoyed it. My only quibble is that I could never quite work out Rachel’s finances – the £300 from her mum went a lot further than I have ever found £300 goes!

    • Yes – I wondered how she was paying for everything – train journeys are not cheap, nor is rent close to London. I also thought she would get in a lot more trouble for pretending to know Megan when talking to her husband.

      • Kay Garrett

        Not to mention all the booze – reckon she was spending at least £20 a day on that!

  • Deborah Garlick

    Well I didn’t see that coming!!! Won’t spoil it x

  • I didn’t think I would enjoy this book at the beginning – you could see that Rachel was going to do something that would get her in trouble, and I find that so irritating in a film or book. However, I got drawn into the details as the book switched between people, and we discovered more about each woman. Throughout the book I did ponder on different baddies – at one point I thought maybe Rachel had rebuilt herself and was telling the tale of her life as Megan before hand – which explained why Megan had disappeared – but that got blown out the water. I did guess the ending by the finish though, and thought Anna was a bit of a contradiction. She appeared so weak, but also ended up being a bit of a controlling bitch. Great characters.

    • Imogen Jamieson

      yes, I agree Gayle – Rachel was teetering on the brink of trouble right from the start! I think that one of the strengths of the book is that the author made us care about her. Rachel seemed to do lots of stupid and ill advised things and like you, I kept wanting to tell her to slow down and think for a moment. Despite the fact this made her a frustrating character, I wanted her to get back on her feet right through the book……and that has now raised another question for me……where was Rachel going to at the end of the book? I think she was still looking for her happy ending – will she ever find it?

  • Deborah Garlick

    I’ve spoilt it for myself! Was thoroughly enjoying the book and then was tempted to go and see the film. I’m not a patient person and couldn’t read fast enough. And it was a disappointment. The book is a page turner, utterly compelling read. I love Emily Blunt’s work but found the film less ‘real’ ‘deep’. There you go. Confessed! Wish I hadn’t.

    • Imogen Jamieson

      oh Deborah! I am so sorry that the film was not quite what you had hoped for. Will you finish the book anyway? You might find that reading to the end answers any unanswered questions you have. I have heard such mixed reviews about the film that I am not sure I will bother to go and see it now 🙂

      • Deborah Garlick

        I will Imogen, I actually felt disappointed with myself but my daughter said to read the book anyway, it’s so much richer and actually more gripping!

  • Tracy Wood

    I started this late as I had another book to finish and hadn’t expected to be hooked so quickly. I am only 130 pages in but they were read in one sitting! I love trains and so could immediately picture the scene, the smells, even the feel of the seats which added to the experience. I travelled to school and later work by train, watching lives through the windows and so immediately it was very real.
    Rachel, bless her, is a great character, flawed but not in an unrealistic way and Megan is like a child, unable to grow up maybe because of what happened to her brother, not sure yet. I know, through both of them, so much is being said that will follow through the entire story and I don’t want to miss any of it. I have a feeling however, that there will be a few ‘oh!’ moments further along the way when I realise the significance of something already discarded. I can’t wait.

    • Imogen Jamieson

      Really looking forward to reading what you think when you get to the end….!

      • Tracy Wood

        I loved it and have written my review now. Looking forward to next month’s book already.

  • Kay Garrett

    Haven’t read a book this quickly in ages – just two days! It really was gripping. It reminded me a lot of Gone Girl in terms of unreliable narratives and twists, although I thought this was much better (I really didn’t like Gone Girl!) I thought the concept was brilliant, setting the scene with her constant train journeys. I didn’t clock the time hops though and at first didn’t realise I was reading about Megan at a different time. I thought the female characters were all well drawn, even peripheral ones like Cathy. Elements were touched on with Rachel like her mother’s clear lack of involvement in her life, and Megan’s traumas unfolded well. I thought it was clever how Rachel had built a life for ‘Jess and Jason and then you learn the truth. But I thought the male characters were all very two dimensional, at times I found it hard to distinguish between Tom and Scott, the therapist was never really properly explained and even Damian seemed to be a control freak. To be honest I thought the ending let it down, it became very unrealistic (are the police really so useless?) I haven’t see the film and not sure if I will as not many people have rated it well – I generally love Emily Blunt but don’t see how she’s been cast to play the overweight Rachel!

    • Deborah Garlick

      Love Emily Blunt too Kay, but she still manages to look absolutely gorgeous and not really as Rachel is portrayed.

      • Imogen Jamieson

        yes, agree that Emily Blunt is a wonderful actress and so it does seem like strange casting but that’s the skill of a good actress I suppose – to convince us that she is the character she is playing even when we have a whole shed load of preconceptions! I know Rachel had put on weight and had an alcoholic’s complexion (and cuts and bruises from her various falls) but I am sure there was a comment in the book that she had been pretty once?? so the fact that Emily Blunt is pretty is not such a bad thing! I don’t think that shallow baddie Tom would have been interested in Rachel in the first place if she hadn’t been an attractive girl??
        Great comment about the males in the book Kay – there were lots of them after all…..the policeman, Scott, Tom, Kamal the therapist and then Damian (yes, total control freak – poor Cathy!) and the chap with the red hair. The author didn’t really seem to like any of the males very much as none of them escaped her scorn. It wasn’t always directly given but thinking about it after reading your comments, the intimation is right there, directed at each male in turn all through the book.
        I liked the neatness of the ending but I am still not quite sure where Rachel was going and I fear she won’t ever find her happy ending and that’s really sad. Reading Rowena’s comments above, I wonder if the ending is a message about domestic abuse…..
        Interesting.

  • Rowena Green

    Hi all. What a book! Thoroughly enjoyed reading it, except that I couldn’t put it down! Found that I had to keep reading, was worried that I might miss something if I stopped. I loved the human stories being so entwined.
    The sympathetic dealing with alcoholism and domestic abuse I found very moving. It made me wonder how many other women are convinced by an emotionally abusive partner that it is they who are in the wrong. I would imagine very scary to be in that position. All in all an excellent book on many levels.
    Was tempted to see the film, but my sister said it was the worst film she had ever seen! No longer tempted!

    • Deborah Garlick

      With your sister there Rowena. Huge fan of Emily Blunt and thought that reading the book had spoilt it for me. Absolutely agree about how women or men could be convinced by an emotionally abusive partner. When the real situation was revealed it was a shocker. Did make me wonder if that’s how it could really happen but I suppose it starts small and builds in that way until the true picture is constantly distorted.

  • Tracy Wood

    I finished this book on Sunday and felt quite bereft. I enjoyed it from the first page to the last and would not hesitate to recommend it, in fact it is now in my daughter’s room for her to read next.
    I felt that the difficult topics were dealt with sympathetically where needed but also harshly in both realistic and misunderstood ways. The alcoholism that coloured Rachel’s life was important in ways not usually seen in literature, at least in the books I read, and how it was linked to the domestic abuse and self loathing was haunting.
    My view of Megan as a child-like character in many ways didn’t change but my opinion of her did. Her past and its effect on her future was very well thought out and, as with all the discoveries, well paced and never over dramatic.
    The ‘oh’ moments weren’t as obvious as I’d imagined but were there nonetheless. Rachel’s self discovery was painful but believable and as each section let the light in a little more I didn’t feel cheated or disappointed by any of them.
    There were two things which did make me pause and not necessarily in a good way. I felt the author had a bit of a downer on men in general as there didn’t seem to be a decent one amongst them! Whilst a true gent wouldn’t have fitted in any more than someone unaffected by the stressful situations they found themselves in, even the secondary males were bullies or drunks and thankfully in my experience they are, in real life not the norm. This made me look at the women more closely and whilst none of them were saints their flaws were of a different nature and there were just nice women included. I also had to keep checking back for the dates, especially towards the end where they weren’t chronological, having them as a header would have stopped the flow being broken.
    I look forward to reading more from this author but won’t be rushing to see the movie. This is such a quintessentially British story that I don’t see how it could be successfully transposed to New York in any way shape or form.

  • Di Castle

    I read this book in about four sittings. It was unputdownable, which is my definition of the perfect book. Written so well with chapters dedicated to individual characters the reader is transported directly into each character’s head.

    Fast paced and full of mystery, flashbacks, thoughts, memories and much much more to fill the reader’s head such that you have to keep turning the pages.

    The book centres on four characters – the main character, Rachel, who has been dumped by her husband in favour of a younger model, Anna, who, while a minor character in the book, surfaces as a key person as the book closes its pages. The mystery surrounds an ex-neighbour of Rachel’s who has gone missing but Rachel knows something about her which she feels the missing woman’s husband and the police should know. Unfortunately the police disregard her as an unreliable witness because of her problem drinking. No spoilers here as all this is available to the reader in the first pages. No chapter is dedicated to the ex-husband, Tom, but he is there at every turn of the page.

    But what happens next is anyone’s guess and even I did not realise the true nature of Rachel until I was into the last few pages.

    I love Hawkins’ use of present tense. Present tense is immediate and fast pacing as the reader is brought into the character’s head and experience, moving along with them into whatever problem they are experiencing.

    Rachel spends the whole book and a short space of time trying to solve the puzzle of what happened to her missing ex-neighbour and also the hazy happenings to herself which is difficult when you drink yourself into oblivion each evening. I was willing her to solve her problems and what had happened to her and others and the pages flew past.

    The best read for about a year. I can only equate it with Elizabeth is Missing which I read equally fast.