Book Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
But, let’s face it, we all like to read the book before seeing the movie, and afterwards, over coffee, discuss what did and didn’t work in the adaptation.
Luckily, given the movie release is out this week (that means it will subsequently become much harder to avoid spoilers), the book is a speedy read. The writing is concise and without pretension; the chapters short and the plot suspenseful enough that you want to keep turning pages.
The Emily Blunt character is called Rachel. Rachel is a bit of a mess, frankly. She’s divorced from Tom, who has remarried Anna and had a child. Rachel is having trouble accepting that reality, and she constantly calls, emails, and visits Tom, especially whilst drunk.
A major running theme of Rachel’s character is her battle with alcoholism. That’s why she’s the Girl on the train. She gets on the train each morning and afternoon, keeping up the pretense of commuting to a job she lost due to her drinking.
The train passes right by Tom and Anna’s house, and to avoid the ‘happy family’ view of her ex and his new wife, Rachel instead focuses on the equally perfect couple in the [almost identical] house a few doors down.
From Rachel’s viewpoint, they are a golden couple, with everything going for them. She weaves fantasies about their perfect life until one day she witnesses something unexpected in their yard. Shortly afterwards she learns that one half of that couple, Megan, has disappeared.
Rachel thinks that what she saw from the train must have something to do with Megan’s disappearance, and that’s when Rachel’s life gets even more complicated. No one believes a drunk whose memory is less than reliable, after all, and she makes several unwise moves to get people to listen.
Rachel, to me, was a sympathetic character. I know there are some reviews out there that whine and say they didn’t really care what happened to her (or any of the other main characters, in fact). I found I really liked her though. The book is mainly written from her first point of view. There are some chapters where Anna and Megan take over as the narrator, and in my opinion, those two characters were less likeable. I was always eager to get back to Rachel’s voice.
I will add each section is date stamped and there isn’t any huge time jumps that could cause confusion.
I think, in general, people will either just love or hate the book. I’m one of the former. I found it entertaining, very sad in parts, and obviously, suspenseful.
If you’re snobbish about such things, I wouldn’t say it’s always literature, but being written in the first person point of view rather limits the author in this respect.
I found it intriguing that this is Hawkins’s debut and hope that she can live up to the hype when releasing her second book. (There’s a catch 22 for all authors: Being so successful everyone is going to pick over book number two!!!)
The ending had a twist, yes, but I wouldn’t say it’s shocking. I know there’s comparisons to Gone Girl’s ending, but that one was literally shocking (and not in a good way).
I mean, all thrillers usually have a twist; it’s not a new thing in the thriller arena. Actually, this book was a twist that, for me, was a relief in some ways.
Enjoy it as escapism and don’t try and analyse every word.
5 out of 5