Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Book Review: "The Girl on the Train" by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train Paula Hawkins
Published: January 13, 2015
ISBN: 9781594633669
Genre: Mystery
Source: Personal Copy

You might enjoy this book if you like: The books of Gillian Flynn, love triangles, books dealing with alcoholism, books with unreliable narrators.

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? 

My Thoughts:
I had to think about this book for a few days after I finished it to decide how much the hype around it affected my experience reading it.  I do realize that I'm one of the last people on the planet to read this....which means I went into reading this knowing that it was supposed to be spectacular.

Did I find it spectacular?  Not at all.  There was much I liked about it. Hawkins has a great writing style and sh mastered the pace of the book so that not only did she control the rate at which information became to available to the reader, but also so that she could build up the necessary dramatic tension.  The story is told through the eyes of 3 women, which sounds like a disaster.  Hawkins, however, successfully develops three distinct voices so that the reader is never confused about who is who.

Rachel, the main character, is expertly drawn.  She is at rock bottom at the start of the book and manages to go lower and lower.  My reaction to her was not that she was unlikable, but that she was pitiful and I believe that was what Hawkins was going for with her.

The story itself is interesting, although I will admit to figuring out the mystery well before I think the author wanted me to. For most of my life, that would be a major strike against the book. However, I've become such a critical reader in the past few years that I've learned to just accept that as par for the course in my reading now.  Because of that, I don't think I'm a good source for someone wanting to know if they'll be surprised by twists and turns in this book.

My biggest problems with the book was that I couldn't find a single character to really root for.  As I said, Rachel was pathetic to the point that she felt like a lost cause. All the other major characters, whoever, were just downright unlikable.  I couldn't stand any of them.  I think Hawkins tried to make two of the minor characters--Megan's therapist and Rachel's roommate--somewhat "nice" but she essentially failed on both counts.  Megan's therapist, well, makes some bad choices.  Rachel's roommate, Cathy, on the other hand, is just downright unbelievable.  Most of the time, she's little Miss Sunshine and, when she's not, she doesn't really have any teeth in her bite.  I'm not saying that Hawkins needed a nice hero in this book somewhere but, as a reader, I needed someone--even a minor character--that I felt had some humanity and who I could root for.  Without that, I never felt completely pulled into the book.

In line with that, I really felt that there was some serious male-bashing in this book.  The men, like everyone else, are not "nice," but they are not nice in very stereotypical and predictable ways.  I wish Hawkins had found a more unique way to create the male characters and had stayed away from tired cliches.

In the end, The Girl on the Train didn't live up to the hype for me, nor did I feel that it was unique enough to deserve all the hype.  However, I can recognize why others would enjoy this book.  While I would recommend this book, I would be selective on who I would recommend it to.  This book is really for people who are looking for something dark and twisty and are able to get sucked into a book without needing a character for them to root for.

I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.

The Girl on the Train
by Paula Hawkins

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