Waterstones Book of The Year Shortlist: The Girl on The Train

Posted on 13th November 2015 by Sally Campbell & Joe Knobbs
Eight titles have been nominated for the Waterstones Book of The Year Award and we will be profiling one title a day for the next eight days. Our first profile: The Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkins.

There is a real appetite for intrigue at the moment; whether for the enigmatic, shadowy corners of spy stories or the arresting, domestic betrayals of a love turned sour, invariably, we desire the plot to move fast and turn quickly. The best psychological thrillers get us utterly absorbed while we to try to keep up with the writer’s ingenious plot. 

Paula Hawkins’ The Girl On The Train is an outstanding, delightfully twisted example of just how whip-smart the best of this genre must be.

Not only has the book been shortlisted for the Waterstones Book of The Year Award, the new, Waterstones' exclusive edition has a stunning, specially designed, monochrome book jacket and red-edged pages. 

Waterstones Crime Fiction buyer, Joe Knobbs, has written the following review, which details why he believes The Girl On The Train is such an exceptional book: 

"To everyone else in this carriage I must look normal; I’m doing exactly what they do: commuting to work, making appointments, ticking things off lists. Just goes to show."

The Girl on The Train is a dark, psychological thriller that has drawn favourable comparisons to Gone Girl and Before I Go To Sleep, but outsold them both.

For me, the best reference point is the work of Alfred Hitchcock. Like the master, Paula Hawkins kicks off with a once-in-a-lifetime concept, before turning the screws, taking the tension to unbearable levels and then knocking your block off with a killer ending.

Rachel catches the same train every day, commuting to work. She looks out, obsessively, for one particular couple, living in one particular house alongside the tracks. When she sees something happen in a blink-and-you-might-miss-it moment, she decides to enter the lives of the young couple.

But is Rachel telling us the whole story?

We’ve heard a lot about unreliable narrators lately. These are characters who only tell readers a part of the tale, leaving them shocked when the full truth is revealed. But Rachel is unreliable in every way. To  her friends she’s a hopeless case, a broken woman. To her colleagues she’s a tragic drunk. And to the young couple whose lives she is about to enter, she’s a volatile, corrosive presence. A wrecking ball. 

This makes Rachel’s unreliability even more interesting. She’s not holding anything back for the sake of a twist ending. She simply can’t look at herself in the mirror.

As she becomes involved with the young couple, and we learn about the sad, tangled mess of their shared history, Rachel finds that the secrets she’s been hiding from herself might be the only things that can keep her alive.

That’s why The Girl on the Train is a different kind of psychological thriller. It’s about an unreliable narrator having to win our trust. Having to re-join the human race.

It’s about an unreliable narrator having to rely on herself.


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