Backstabbing: Literally or Metaphorically? A Review of Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train

Cover courtesy of Riverhead Books

The Girl on the Train – a simple everyday journey that takes a turn for the worst into a tale of drunk dialing, anger and frustration, and a woman gone missing. The novel begins with three storytellers: Rachel, Megan, and Anna. Rachel fell into hard times when her marriage with Tom failed as he left her for Anna. In the throws of jealousy, Rachel is drunk throughout almost the novel; drinking comes easy to Rachel until she begins to lose sight of everyone and everything around her.

When Rachel is drunk, she drunk dials, speaks her mind, and wanders whenever and wherever she can, causing many problems. However, after each of her binges, she frequently wakes up and remembers nothing. With anger she calls, visits, and pesters her ex-husband and his new wife, causing concern for their safety. Countless times Tom convinces Anna not to call the cops on Rachel, but soon it may have to be done.

Rachel’s daily journey on the train is to convince her roommate, Cathy, that she is going to work after getting fired from her previous job for showing up to work drunk. During her daily train ride, she repeatedly passes her old home and sits in fury and jealousy of the couple now living so happily under the roof that was once hers.

The house for Rachel represents the loss of family, the loss of a relationship, and the loss of a grip on her life; it is the place where it all fell apart. When life began to shift for Rachel she slowly began drinking and then it led to more and more arguments, further separating their marriage and later causing her to lose her job. Now that there is a happy couple living in the house that her marriage crumbled in, she grows increasingly jealous and angry and longs for a future like theirs – and for revenge.

Flash forward further into the novel: Rachel is attending therapy with Megan’s therapist, Dr. Abdic. In the beginning, she is unsure of the idea of therapy and wants to refuse it, but she gets more and more comfortable with him, then develops feelings for him and longing for a relationship. She wants so badly to have a connection with someone, to have her voice heard, and for life to be “normal” for her again – but through the eyes of others, she is just the crazy, imaginative neighbourhood drunk who wants to ruin the lives and jobs of others.

What seems to be a normal situation of a person looking for treatment quickly turns into an accused versus the accuser situation. When one day Megan suddenly disappears, Rachel frantically tries to recall what has happened, having been drunk when she disappeared. Megan has been missing for quite a while and everyone is trying to piece together what has happened and where she has gone.

The Girl on the Train is an accurate depiction of backstabbing and betrayal. The author, Paula Hawkins, uses effective visual and auditory imagery to show us the story and make her readers feel the emotions that all of the characters go through. By telling the story from a variety of perspectives, Hawkins provides insight into multiple characters’ lives while still maintaining a strong element of mystery, which is extremely impressive and was fascinating to read.

Emily Foster is a Communications Studies student at UNB Saint John. As part of a COMx project, she wrote this book review for The Lorenzo Review. To learn more about contributing to us for extra credit in your Communications Studies courses, speak to your instructor and email