Thursday, July 23, 2015

Book Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Release date: January 13, 2015
Author links: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Age group: Adult
Pages: 323
Purchase the book: Amazon - Book Depository

Description (from Goodreads):

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, arguably one of the most hyped thrillers of the past year has been an object of my interest since the first time I heard about it. Despite the fact that I did not really like Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl, the comparisons made between that and Hawkins's debut intrigued me. Once the book was released, I suddenly started to feel like I was not quite sure whether I wanted to read the book or not – the hype and the mixed reviews started to frustrate me. What would I think? Was the book worth a read in the end? I am happy that I did finally pick it up, because despite the fact that I had my issues with the novel, I did quite find myself enjoying it.

Essentially, The Girl on a the Train is a story of three women; Rachel, Anna and Megan; and the men in their lives. Rachel is an alcoholic – after her divorce from Tom, a man that cheated on her with Anna, now his wife and the mother to his young daughter, Rachel's life was gone downhill. She drinks daily and finds herself forgetting things that she probably should remember. Anna is not happy living in the house that used to belong to Tom and her ex-wife. Her life seems and looks perfect, but the fact that Rachel seems incapable to leave Tom alone bugs her and makes it impossible for her to fully enjoy her life and feel she for herself and her young daughter. Megan lives down the road from Tom and Anna, sharing her house with her husband Scott. Despite the fact that they seem happy on paper, Megan continually sleeps around. She loves Scott, but at the same time feels incapable to adapt the role of a perfect wife in a perfect house.

Five days a week, Rachel takes the same train in the morning and in the evening. From the windows of that train, she observes the life on Bleinheim Road, the road she used to live at with Tom. From the train, she sees Megan and Scott living their life, seemingly happy and fine. On the morning she seems Megan with another man, everything changes. Later on, she learns that Megan has disappeared, and because of her curiosity and the feeling that she is somehow involved, Rachel entangles herself into the investigation. As the story starts to open up and more and more information is brought to the surface, all the characters starts to realize that things are not quite as they seem.

The comparisons to Gone Girl are easy to understand – missing woman, shady husband, plot line that makes the reader constantly question the actions of the characters. For me, The Girl on a Train was a much more entertaining and twisty read than Gone Girl. And despite the fact that the characters do questionable things, I did not quite hate them all as much as I hated the principal characters on Gone Girl. Rachel, arguably the main character of the novel, is an unreliable narrator, partly because of her use of alcohol, and partly because of the way the other characters describe her. While reading the novel, I was never quite sure whether to believe what Rachel is saying – all the time, I was thinking at the back of my mind, that she could be lying. Anna, the mistress and the new wife, is also a problematic character, mostly because of the fact that she seems to feel no remorse over the fact that she broke someone's family. Megan is quite the same – her past and some of her thoughts occasionally make it very difficult to like her or to relate with her in any way, but at the same time, I think it is qualities like that that make these characters seem so human.

It would not be far-fetched to say that the representations of men in this novel are very negative. All of the principal male characters seems shady and violent and downright scary. What made the reading interesting was to see which of them was the worst.

The Girl on the Train started quite slowly, but once the plot thickens, it got very entertaining and impossible to put down. I did figure out the ending quite early on, but that did not really ruin it for me. The writing did not blow my mind, but at the same time it did not make me cringe – it is not life changing, but it does manage to entertain and I bet it will keep you turning the pages. If you liked Gone Girl, you should probably pick this one up.  

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