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18 Facts About The Girl On the Train

The Girl on the Train Facts

The Girl On The Train has been hailed as a runaway success. It seems we're all fascinated by the idea that dark things can happen in the quaint, cosy homes of leafy suburbs! Read on to find out 18 interesting facts about this gripping tale.

1. It became the fastest-selling novel in history.

In the first 6 months, it sold over 2 million copies.

2. The publisher originally printed only 40,000 copies.

It has since been translated into more than 40 languages, published in 50 countries and sold more than 18 million copies by November 2016.

3. The story came to Hawkins while commuting by train

“When I first moved to London and started commuting into the centre, the bits of the journey I loved most were when the train ran close enough to houses so that I could see right into people’s living rooms. I always found it gave me a feeling of connection, most strongly when you actually saw a person in there, making their morning tea or reading the paper. I never saw anything out of the ordinary, but I did start to wonder what would happen if I did: what would I do if I saw something shocking or frightening? That’s where the germ of the idea came about, but it was only much later, when I had the character of Rachel walking around in my head, that I started to think about how someone like her, lonely and damaged as she is, might react if she saw something strange on her daily commute, and I found that a whole world of possibility opened up,” she said.

The Girl on the Train Movie Facts Emily Blunt

4. For the movie, Emily Blunt was given a 'make under' to play Rachel

She wore special contact lenses to make her eyes bloodshot and glassy, so that she could appear drunk. The makeup artist gave her rosacea, and her hairstylist gave her imperfect bangs.

5. Hawkins worked as a freelance journalist for 10 years

“I spent a lot of time writing about tax and pensions and mortgages,” she said.

Zimbabwe flag and country Paula Hawkins birthplace
6. The author grew up in Zimbabwe

She moved to London when she was 17.

7. When optioned for a movie, Hawkins wasn't sure it would get made

She famously said, "it may not happen. It feels unreal.” But of course, we knew better!

8. 'Girl' sounded better than 'Woman' in the title

“The Woman on the Train just didn’t sound as good. I’ll take care next time not to have girl in the title,” she told The Guardian. The main character, Rachel, a 30-something, is “not a girl, but I do call people girls all the time – I refer to myself as a girl and I’m in my 40s”.

9. Hawkins wrote a book called The Money Goddess

It was full of financial ideas for women. Seems like she took her own advice!

10. Two movies had already been made called The Girl On The Train

One is a French drama, and the other is an American documentary. Unfortunately, the title did not work for them. Third time's a charm!

11. It was originally written from only Rachel's POV

“I actually started out just writing from Rachel’s perspective, but I thought that I needed to get inside Megan’s head as well, so I introduced her. Then, later on, I decided to write from three. For me, a lot of the book is about perceptions of people and how they change and how they can be completely off. So I think it was interesting to see these women all looking at each other and the men in their lives and make judgments. And then we can see it from somebody else’s viewpoint, and we can really understand the assumptions that are being made and the preconceptions that different people have.”

seeing through the eyes of the victim girl on the train

12. Hawkins wanted us to see through the eyes of the victim

“The stranger lurking in the dark alleyway or the man who breaks into the house are the stuff of nightmares, but in reality most victims of violence are attacked by someone they know, often in their own home, and that for me holds its own particular terrors, because you are talking about the place in which you are supposed to be safest, and the people in whom you are supposed to place your trust, ” she said.

“For example, we are told by politicians and other commentators that ‘stranger rape’ is so much worse for the victim than ‘date rape’, but this ignores the fact that an attack in the home, by someone you know, can be every bit as brutal and terrifying as an attack by a stranger, and it involves a devastating betrayal of trust.”

Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock by insomnia cured here

13. Hawkins is an Alfred Hitchcock fan and played with that

“I was going for a slightly Hitchcock-style atmosphere. I did want that feeling of paranoia, self-doubt, suspicion. In that movie [“The Lady Vanishes”], everyone thinks that woman is making things up, and I wanted this book to have a similar sense. You can do fascinating things with the tricks memory can play and tell. People can come to believe things which didn’t happen at all if they’re told them enough times.

The Girl on the Train Author Paula Hawkins facts
Paula Hawkins
author of
The Girl On The Train

14. To make it real, Hawkins studied alcoholism and blackouts

“I have read about it, and the thing about blackouts is, there still is quite a lot about blackouts induced by alcohol use that I think we just don’t know. It’s not completely understood why some people get them and other people don’t. That’s as far as I understand— there are probably scientists who will tell me I’m wrong. [laughs]”

“But it was quite useful to me because I could have parts where she does remember things and parts where she doesn’t. Also memory loss can be affected by a host of other things as well like a traumatic incident or a blow to the head. So the blackout is a useful device for the thriller writer, but there are obviously other factors at play when it comes to memory.”

15. Paula Hawkins was desperately in need of money when she sold the manuscript

She told her agent to try and sell it, because she was broke. 

“I couldn’t afford to wait until I finished the book to get a deal. I needed some sort of income, and my agent thought the first half (of the book) was very strong. ‘The Girl on the Train’ was a last roll of the dice for me as a fiction writer,” she said.

16. The book advance was HUGE

Some say Hawkins received a 6 figure advance for the book. That's pretty amazing for an unknown author. It must have been quite a relief, given that she was broke at the time!

Stephen King praised girl on the train
17. Stephen King praised the novel via Twitter

“THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, by Paula Hawkins: really great suspense novel. Kept me up most of the night. The alcoholic narrator is dead perfect”

around the world book tour girl on the train
18. Hawkins' first book tour involved 11 flights and 9 days

She visited 8 different American cities on that tour to sign books for her growing number of fans. How impressive is that?

If you haven't read it yet, or seen the movie, go check it out!

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?

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