Book Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

book cover for the girl on the train
© Riverhead Books, 2015.

Synopsis:


“EVERY DAY THE SAME

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.

UNTIL TODAY

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?” (Source: Goodreads)

Review:


As of late, I have found myself reading books that have received a lot of hype, and like Gone GirlThe Girl on the Train is one of the titles I got my hands on. After hearing a lot of amazing things about Paula Hawkins’ novel from fellow bookwyrms, I figured it’d be worth the read. The fact I read Gone Girl first probably ruined The Girl on the Train for me. I admit this fact openly and probably because the main plots of both books are a bit similar in nature: girl goes missing, people blame her husband.

What The Girl on the Train doesn’t have, however, are despicable characters that will make you loathe the book. Where Gone Girl showed us how hateful and messed up a relationship and those involved can be through psychotic, unfaithful characters, The Girl on the Train shows us how pathetic we can be in the wake of a bad breakup, or when we’ve hit rock bottom. I’ve been where Rachel is before, and honestly, I get her – perhaps a little too much.

Rachel Watson is an alcoholic. She needs the drink to get through her day, to exist. When her husband leaves her for another woman, she finds herself living with an acquaintance. Lies blanket Rachel’s day to day life and there appears to be no end in sight for her self-destructive tendencies. She’s so focused on the life she once had that whenever she takes the train into London, she watches the couple that lives down the street from her now ex-husband. She creates names for the pair (Jess and Jason) and, in a pathetic way of stalking, fools herself into believing that she knows the couple intimately.

It isn’t uncommon for Rachel to end up outside Tom’s house after a night of drinking, but one night things go a little bit too far and Rachel blacks out. Unable to recall anything beyond the fact that she was there, in her old neighborhood that night, Rachel begins to panic, showing readers that she lacks faith in herself, and clearly can’t even trust her own actions. Worse, she soon finds out that the woman she’s named Jess has gone missing and the few memories she is able to recollect don’t bode well for her at all. Thus, with the idiocy of a thousand… a thousand something, she thrusts herself into the investigation, despite her lack of reliability and her own incriminating statements.

Naturally, this is information that can be gleaned from Rachel’s side of things and, because I don’t wish to reveal spoilers, only makes up a portion of the book. In reality, we learn that Rachel’s not the only character that deserves a bit of pity and that there’s a lot more to the story than Rachel’s own selfish feelings. When I first began reading the book, I felt like I could truly identify with her: I’ve suffered heart break and from time to time, I do have a tendency to binge drink, but by the book’s conclusion, the thought that I’d compare myself to Rachel was absolutely cringe worthy.

Anna is the other woman that Tom left Rachel for, and I felt she was an extremely unlikable character, if only because she almost seems to gloat over the fact that she stole Rachel’s husband. That is, until Rachel’s stalking and harassment turn over an entirely new leaf at the hand of an unforgivable action.

Megan, the third woman from whose point of view the story is told, is the missing girl with a husband that’s just a bit too overbearing. Like Rachel, he appears to be pretty fond of alcohol and, as a result of Rachel’s inserting herself into the investigation, shows that he is more than capable of killing his wife.

The majority of the story centers around Rachel, which I find to be a bit peculiar since she’s not the girl that’s missing. There’s a substantial lack of attempt to search for Megan, as well. Fans of Gone Girl laud The Girl on the Train, but honestly, I found that it fell significantly short. The Girl on the Train failed to hook me in and it took a few days longer than I had anticipated to finish reading it. There was no awe-inspiring aftertaste upon its conclusion, and while well written, it’s definitely not in my top picks for the year. I don’t expect the movie to be any better, either. Movies seem to fall short of expectations nowadays.

Rating: 💀💀💀


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