Book Review # 20: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Number of Pages: 325
Date Published: January 13, 2015
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. 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 offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?
The Girl on the Train – How in the world did this thriller novel gain so much fuss? Don’t worry, I’m not being negative. This is just what seeped into my head the moment I saw the amount of rating it managed to accumulate. A lot of reviews compared this book with equally successful novels of the same genre e.g.(and especially) Gone Girl. You’ve probably heard these statements: Oh, this is the new Gone Girl, Gone Girl meets _____, yada yada yada. But is the story really as thrilling as the reviews say? or will this be another Gone Girl attempt gone wrong?
Background: The events in the story are told in the perspectives of three women – Rachel, Megan, and Anna.
Rachel’s life is a mess. Her past is a film of arguments, black outs, and bottles of alcohol. She has no idea how to put herself together. Taking the same train every morning has made her incredibly observant of her surroundings. Have you ever experienced creating stories in your head just by looking at people? Well, Rachel’s like that.
She took particular interest in the daily interactions of two people she labeled as the perfect couple,”Jess” and “Jason”. Observing them became her cup of tea; Her train-rides, a source of light to fill her dark days.
Until one day, Rachel saw something, something different. She dove into impulse, her interest spiraling to obsession. It didn’t take long before Rachel found herself caught in a web of danger and suspicion. Putting the pieces together was a very, very big mistake.
I was not immediately hooked. It felt very melancholy, and a little too descriptive,. However, this quality has almost always been the selling point of most thrillers. The author starts slow then builds the surroundings and the characters. She then provides an alarming event, and proceeds to keep everything vague from there. So was the wait worth it? I think so.
If you enjoy a decent thriller, you may be pleased to know the following
The narrative voices are downright creepy: No one is rid of pretentious and depressing thoughts. It strives to keep a consistent atmosphere, one that will keep your breath at standstill. Was this a good thing? Yes, yes, absolutely, YES.
Hollowness: that I understand. I’m starting to believe that there isn’t anything you can do to fix it.The holes in your life are permanent. You have to grow around them, like tree roots around concrete; you mould yourself through the gaps. All these things I know, but I don’t say them out loud, not now.
Do not expect to find goody goody characters in this book. Everyone is terrible: Pick your favorite character. Your choices? (a) an alcoholic, (b) a cheater, (c) a paranoid and manipulative bitch. Throw in a couple of douche-bag inspectors and husbands and what have you got? a joyless yet daunting story line. Terrible characters, despite being formulaic, are capable of sustaining tension and mystery. So if you are constantly looking for disturbing and repulsive thoughts, this novel will not disappoint. Again, this is a compliment.
Fucking bitch. she’s a cuckoo, laying her egg in my nest. She has taken everything and now she calls me to tell me that my distress is inconvenient for her?
I finish the second can and make a start on the third. The blissful rush of alcohol hitting my bloodstream lasts only a few minutes and then I feel sick. I’m going too fast, even for me, I need to slow down; if I don’t slow down something bad is going to happen.
The possibilities are endless: Because every character in this book is terrible, you can pretty much visualize any of them as a suspect. The twist will be more enjoyable if you keep the hunches to a minimum. My only advice? Do not trust anyone.
It isn’t like Gone Girl at all: I’m merely comparing the two in terms of plot. I have not (nor do I plan to) read Gone Girl. Nevertheless, do not expect the same turn of events because this won’t be psychotic-character-does-damage-101-to-redeem-herself, all over again.
Surprisingly, it has its own set of takeaways: The women did not irritate me so much. The same thing cannot be said for the detectives. I’ve executed multiple mind stabs, just so you know. One takeaway: Do not judge anyone’s situation no matter how much of a mess the person seems to be. I won’t elaborate just so I don’t risk giving away anything.
Just the right amount of brutal and realistic scenes: Sharp objects, screws, rocks, fists, yeah, you get my drift.
What you might find off-putting
- You might find it a drag to read about train scenes and investigations that never seem to reach any sort of conclusion.
- Even if you have many assumptions, I doubt your confusion will persist until the last chapter. It’s not something to brag about, but if you’ve been reading a lot of thrillers, you can definitely figure this one out (250 pages at the latest).
- If you adore powerful women who could at least bear the consequences of their actions more competently (or maybe try to change something about the way they look at themselves), do not, I repeat, do not read this book.
- The ending: Well, the ending was loyal to the novel’s overall atmosphere so I’m not really complaining, but some people might find it unsatisfying.
Read during a cloudy weather. Rainstorms are a bonus. Lock yourself in your room. Turn on the heater if you must. Listen to white noise or slow classical music. Eat rocky road ice cream, or drink root beer float.
Favorite Quotes from The Girl on the Train
I have never understood how people can blithely disregard the damage they do by following their hearts.
I have lost control over everything, even the places in my head.
There’s nothing so painful, so corrosive, as suspicion.
A tiding of magpies: One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy, five for silver, six for gold, seven for a secret never to be told.