Book Review

The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins (Book First)

Why hello all my lovely readers out there. Guess what? I finally read The Girl on the Train (how 2015 of me).

I remember last year when the hype was high and every book club was reading The Girl on the Train. And then sometime earlier this year the book started to get some major backlash. The love died down and a wave of harsh criticism rolled through.

At this point the book was already on my shelves and the backlash kept it low on my TBR. Now that the movie is coming out this weekend I knew it was time. I’ve been lucky enough to not have the ending spoiled, but I knew that luxury wouldn’t last for long.

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Rachel Watson, after two years, still hasn’t gotten over her ex-husband leaving her for another woman (and starting a family). Rachel drowns her sorrows in loads of booze and one of the only highlights of her life is taking the train to work and back.

From the train, she sees this perfect beautiful couple. Every day she can fantasize about their happiness as she witnesses pieces of their daily lives. But one day Rachel sees something private, something no one was suppose to know.

And then the wife goes missing. What happened to her, and is there any way Rachel could be responsible?

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The basic premise is a standard ‘whodunit’ but with an interesting twist: Our main narrator is unreliable, an alcoholic who was blackout drunk the night the beautiful woman disappeared.

“Drunk Rachel sees no consequences, she is either excessively expansive and optimistic or wrapped up in the hate. She has no past, no future. She exists purely in the moment.” (pg.105)

I can understand the love and hype for The Girl on the Train when it first came out. Honestly, if I wasn’t reading this book critically then I would have thought it was a decent mystery and walked away satisfied. Sadly, the closer I look at the book, the more it falls apart for me.

First and foremost, I just wished everyone wasn’t SO damn terrible, it was just too much sometimes. I actually liked the main character Rachel, at first, as an unreliable narrator, but Hawkins just really wanted her to win ‘Sad Sack of the year’ award.

Honestly, it wasn’t Rachel’s awful behavior when she was drunk that got to me, it was how much of an idiot she was when she was sober. She made sooooo many cringey decisions, and while I understand the source behind those decisions… some were just too ridiculous.

It’s like those old B Horror movies when a character goes down to the creepy, dark basement and you just start screaming, “DON’T GO IN THE BASEMENT!”. That’s what Rachel’s sober decisions made me feel.

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Geez, I hate to make a Gone Girl reference, but the marketing of the book (and movie) keeps pumping up The Girl on the Train as the next Gone Girl, so I might as well  join the comparison club too.

I don’t think Gone Girl has to worry.

For Gone Girl, the focus of the plot was the marriage of Nick and Amy, and the mystery plot was there to shed light on the characters and their relationship to one another. The story was in service to the characters first, and just happened to have an interesting mystery element as well.

On the flip side, for The Girl on the Train, I felt like the story was in service to the mystery first. Everything is a red herring. Everything. Everybody was so damn suspicious, that I didn’t have a hard time figuring out who definitely wasn’t to blame.

A couple of characters might as well been yelling, ‘Look at me, I’M SOOOOO SUSPICIOUS!’

*Possible spoiler* And one last note: On a personal level, I really had a hard time with the description of a baby that had passed away due to negligence. I had to put the book down for awhile. Also, there is a toddler that is in the middle of a threatening situation. It was all just too much.

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I might be harsh in my criticisms, but actually I didn’t hate the book, I just didn’t think it was this AMAZING psychological thriller.

For me there were just certain elements that kept me from taking The Girl on the Train as seriously as Hawkins wanted me too. Because the book takes itself really seriously, even when it’s on the edge of melodramatic. Honestly I think marketing the book as ‘the next Gone Girl’ might have hurt it in the long run.

But Hawkins is swimming in cash now, so what do I know.

Score: 6/10

Can the movie do any better? I mean, it has Emily Blunt, so it’s off to a good start. Stay tuned for tomorrow when my review for the movie comes out!

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10 thoughts on “The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins (Book First)

  1. I didn’t like the book, at all! Rachel was a horrible protagonist, and all the characters were just downright unhappy. Before the twist even happened, I already guessed it. I don’t get the hype.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Agreed. Although I didn’t think much of Gone Girl, either—having been late to the party, so spoiled myself from all the hype—both of the books were well-written, had that atmosphere needed in a thriller, but I’ve found that when it involves a twist, my expectations get too high. Had I go in blind, without any knowledge of what would happen, or with the comparisons to other works, perhaps my opinion might’ve been different. I will say the film does look a tad better, only because it’s seemed to have brought that thriller mood to life, but other than that, not much to go on.

    Liked by 1 person

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