a train

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THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, published in 2015, is a mystery, thriller & suspense novel by Paula Hawkins. The movie was released in 2016.

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN spent 26 weeks at #1 on the NYT bestseller list. It had sold an estimated 15 million copies worldwide by October 2016.

I recognize them and they probably recognize me. I don’t know whether they see me, though, for what I really am.


Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life–as she sees it–is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?


The Girl On the Train is used as an example in the following posts. Check them out!

Past vs Present TenseA comparison of past vs present tense including modern fiction examples. Which is right for your novel?
Present TensePresent tense happens now. Check out 5 times it’s the best choice for your novel.
First Person Point of ViewMe, myself, and I are examples of first person point of view. Check out five times you should use first POV for your novel.
Guide to PlotLearn the 5 key plot points of every story.
the Inciting IncidentMaster the inciting incident with these 4 essential elements.
the AntagonistMaster the inciting incident with these 4 essential elements.
The 15-Step Master Outline for Fiction Course ($39)The 15-Step Master Outline for Fiction is the ultimate outline. It’s completely customizable: add more or less details depending on your outlining (and writing) style.
Whether you’re a plotter, a pantser, or somewhere in between, the 15-Step Master Outline for Fiction can help you get your story in order. It includes a comprehensive lesson for each step, bestselling example, and workbook.


I’m a bit of a sucker for an unreliable narrator and Rachel is definitely unreliable. I was completely invested in her chapters.

I also loved to love-hate Anna. Poor Anna is harrassed by Rachel but also Anna the unrepentant husband stealer. I’d probably love an Anna only book (what’s she up to post-Tom?)

But Megan? I felt like her chapters really detracted from the book. I didn’t need to know what she’d been up to a year ago. I didn’t need to know what her life was like. Rachel’s obsession would have been enough for me.

But that’s just my opinion. What do others think?

Everyone is cheating on everyone and that’s kind of the whole point of the story, which I find frustrating.

– Howling Libraries

I found her [Rachel] not only extremely sympathetic but also agonizingly poignant and heart-breaking.

– The Book Smugglers

An excellent character study, The Girl On The Train is also a gripping read, making it undoubtedly this year’s best thriller.

– Charlie Derry
a typewriter

Writing Practice

Let’s get inspired by THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN. Check out these writing exercises and prompts and get practicing!


Your Task: This is the opening paragraph of the novel. Ignore everything you know about the story and use it as a writing prompt.

Using as much detail as possible, write another 300+ words.

Rachel: Friday, 5 July 2013 (Chapter 1)

THERE IS A PILE OF clothing on the side of the train tracks. Light-blue cloth – a shirt, perhaps – jumbled up with something dirty white. It’s probably rubbish, part of a load fly-tipped into the scrubby little wood up the bank. It could have been left behind by the engineers who work this part of the track, they’re here often enough. Or it could be something else. My mother used to tell me that I had an overactive imagination; Tom said that too. I can’t help it, I catch sight of these discarded scraps, a dirty T-shirt or a lonesome shoe, and all I can think of is the other shoe, and the feet that fitted into them.


Your Task: Ignore everything you know about the story. Use this excerpt from the novel as a writing prompt. Who is this person? What happened to them? Using as much detail as possible, tell a story.

Rachel: Sunday, 14 July (Chapter 2)

Something happened, something bad. There was an argument. Voices were raised. Fists? I don’t know, I don’t remember. I went to the pub, I got on to the train, I was at the station, I was on the street. Blenheim Road. I went to Blenheim Road.

It comes over me like a wave, black dread.

Something happened, I know it did. I can’t picture it, but I can feel it. The inside of my mouth hurts, as though I’ve bitten my cheek, there’s a metallic tang of blood on my tongue. I feel nauseated, dizzy. I run my hands through my hair, over my scalp. I flinch. There’s a lump, painful and tender, on the right side of my head. My hair is matted with blood.

Exercise: Plot Change & Rewrite

This exercise will work best if you’re familiar with the story. Go back to the plot diagram you made for exercise #5 of Plotting a Novel.

Your Task: Add or change an event and write it.

Need an Idea?

*SPOILER* Change the ending – instead of Rachel stabbing Tom, make it Anna. (Do I mean Anna stabs Tom or Rachel stabs Anna? You decide!)

a woman drinking


GenreMystery, Suspense & Thriller
First Published
Jan 13, 2015
Print Length
(according to amazon)
326 pages
File Size
(according to amazon)
1,335 KB
PublisherRiverhead Books
Goodreads Rating
(As of Feb 2019)
The Goodreads Rating for The Girl on the Train was 3.90 in February 2019.
Amazon Rating
(As of Feb 2019)
The Amazon Customer Rating for The Girl on the Train was 4.1 in February 2019.
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Your Thoughts?

Pin This: Book Review & Analysis of THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN

Have you read THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN?

If so, what did you think? If not, will you?
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PS. share your exercises in the comments below. I’d love to see them.


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