Author: Paula Hawkins
It’s finally time for me to review ‘The Girl on the Train’ by Paula Hawkins. Widely considered to be 2015’s answer to ‘Gone Girl’, the novel tells the story of a murdered housewife. Unfortunately, I seem to be the only person who hasn’t been completely hooked by the book. I enjoyed the opening, even if it did embroil the stereotypical peaceful setting that can’t remain so picturesque for long, and was kept guessing the identity of the murderer for much of the first half. However, I was disappointed that I managed to guess who had committed the crime with over a hundred pages to go. I was left opening for a final twist that never materialised.
To backtrack to the beginning of the book, I must concede that I was immediately captivated by the idea of daydreaming on the daily commute- the favoured activity of Rachel. I liked the way she was able to spot evidence about the case of a murdered stranger, Megan, who she had observed from the train but never spoken to face to face. Although we don’t want to admit it, those who board a bus or train at the same place every day often do notice the same strangers multiple and may even find ourselves wondering about their lives. Like Rachel, we’d probably even notice if something about these people changed. It was possible to obtain different views on the story from the triple narrative, which flitted backwards and forwards in time over the course of a year and included passages from the points of view of Rachel, Megan and Anna (the new wife of Rachel’s ex-husband). This was another thing I liked about the novel, as it provided an abundance of background information, even if Anna and Rachel’s tangled love-lives were a bit ‘chic-lit’. It also helped us try to establish who was and was not lying. The only problem with this style of narrative was that it did cause the varying timelines of the story to become a little over complex and confusing.
With regards to the actual characters, Rachel’s alcoholism and the ‘blackouts’ it caused were an interesting plot device that was effective at ‘padding out’ the story, as creating doubts over the accuracy of Rachel’s evidence allowed the book to last a little longer whilst, a little typically, the police failed to act on her information. In general, I like the way a whole story unfolded simply from a daydreamer watching someone from the confines of a train. That being said, I can’t say I actually liked any of the protagonists and I definitely found it hard to sympathize with Megan. Rachel’s ‘woe’ is me act grew a little worn after a while, too, especially when it became apparent she did little to encourage the other characters to like her. Hawkins has aimed, and succeeded,at creating a social outcast of a character. Last but not least, I found Anna’s narrative whiny and simply irritating.
As a whole, I was a little disappointed in how average and forgettable I found this book. I feel it would have been more memorable- not to mention shocking- if the final twist had remained a secret for just a little longer. Although the idea of making ordinary life, and the domestic disputes that ensue, extraordinary is quite appealing the book is really nothing more or less than a ‘popcorn read’. With this in mind, it drags on a little too long, is a bit too melodramatic and takes itself a little too seriously.
Rating: *** (3/5)