The Girl on the Train

By Lauren Bales

Novel by Paula Hawkins

Film by Tate Taylor


The Girl on the Train, written by Paula Hawkins in 2015, is a psychological thriller based around the post-divorce life of an alcoholic Rachel. As she takes the train to work every morning and rides past her old house where her old husband, Tom, and his former mistress/current wife, Anna, and new baby, she tries to ignore them by putting her focus on their neighbors, Megan and Scott. She dreams up an imaginary life for them where everything is perfect. Until one day, as she's riding and dreaming she witnesses Megan kissing another man, crushing the perfect dream, and become enraged. The next day she wakes up hungover, beaten, and without any memory of the night before. Soon she learns that Megan has gone missing and, as she has invested herself in Megan's "life", decides to investigate it and figure out what she was up to that night as well, especially since she has a feeling she may be involved.


- Megan's baby storyline

In the novel, Megan admits to Dr. Kamal that as a teenager she had a child she never wanted, and the baby accidentally drowns in the bathtub. Megan's reluctance to have a child gives the reader the impression that she killed her own child. This confession makes its way to the media as it covers the story of her disappearance, labelling her as a "baby-killer". This is omitted from the film.

- The setting

The novel is based in London, but the film is based in New York. I think this change is to relate this book to a wider audience. New York is one of the most diverse places in the world, so it relates better on an international level.

- Rachel's rage

In the novel, Rachel constant malice towards Anna is expressed through internal monologues where she dreams of attacking Anna. However, in the film Rachel's rage is aimed at Megan, even the violent dream. The film also adds a scene where Rachel expresses this dream to an accidentally recording phone.

- Scott's role

Megan's husband, Scott, has a smaller role in the film than in the movie. In the novel Scott's abuse is a lot more physical. In one scene he reads her emails and learns of her affair, then proceeds to throw her into a wall and choke her. In another, after confronting Rachel about her lies, Scott literally drags her into a room and locks her up. However, in the film, Megan doesn't confess the affair, but he suspects something and lunges after her when she comes home from a rendezvous though nothing much comes of it. After confronting Rachel in the film, Scott gets aggressive and throws a bottle but that's about it.

In the book Scott and Rachel also have a stronger relationship. They develop an emotional bond over the course of the novel. Rachel meets Scott’s mom, tells Scott about her alcoholism, and tells him that Tom is her ex-husband. They even sleep together. The film keeps their relationship extremely distant. They still interact but not as much.

- Martha and the gaslighting

Rachel slowly pieces together that her memories of her drunken misbehavior haven’t been entirely trustworthy. She remembers a polite interaction with Clara, a wife of one of Tom’s colleagues, but her husband later tells her a different story about her drunken antics. After therapy, Rachel starts to realize that Tom’s stories might not be true. In the film, Clara is named Martha now. Rachel sees Martha on the train and apologizes to her about her antics, only for Martha to essentially solve the entire mystery for her: Rachel was perfectly pleasant and was well behaved. Her behavior wasn't what got Tom fired, Tom’s inability to stop sleeping with his co-workers did.

- The detectives

In the book, Megan's disappearance is investigated by a male detective with a female assistant detective. However, in the film, Detective Riley was given a much more upfront role. Instead of being an assistant detective, Riley is the sole lead detective on the case, to keep up the female-dominance of the film.