Book Review: The Girl on the Train
ashley | I have seen people reading The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins everywhere. Seriously, everywhere. On the train (duh), in waiting rooms, even on the beach in Mexico a couple months ago. I just couldn’t escape it, so I decided to give in and finally read it.
The transit commute. So many of us do it. So many of us know how monotonous it is. Sitting on a crowded car that is taking you closer and closer to a long day of work. When I’m on the train, I do my best to pretend I’m anywhere else. But that is not true for our narrator here. Rachel has a very strange and personal relationship with her train. She gives Sheldon Cooper a run for his money with how much she seems to adore the train, she would rather be on that train than anywhere else, she claims. This book starts with some odd and specific descriptions of the train, almost as if it’s a character itself (maybe it is!), and at one point I questioned whether I’m taking my transit commute for granted.
Initially, the narrative flips back and forth between Rachel on the train in the morning and returning home on the train in the evening, where she’s often soothing her sorrows with some alcohol. She describes the people around her, the imagined lives she’s reflected onto people she sees from her train window. You get a bit of insight into her lonely life, her broken past, her messy emotional self. And then this format expands to include Megan’s point of view, the girl that Rachel sees out her train window every morning. And that expands to Anna’s point of view, her ex-husbands new wife.
It’s an interesting concept, these people exist to the reader only during these mornings and evenings, just a glimpse into their lives, but it starts to grow old quick and the story sometimes seems forced or too limited, like it’s pushing to break free from this structured pattern. It also kind of takes on a dear diary feel after a while, which I’m not overly fond of.
When Megan goes missing and things move away from that damn train, things start to get more interesting (and this is where the Gone Girl comparisons can come in). I followed Rachel as she carelessly fumbled through her days, trying to piece together what (she thinks) happened to Megan, what (she thinks) could have happened during her black out the night Megan went missing. I like that it didn’t exactly tie her to the disappearance, but she was still undoubtedly involved, whether for real or all in her head. It was like that saying, like an accident, I couldn’t look away. The more Rachel tried, the more of a mess she made of everything and I couldn’t look away.
I don’t know, this was a weird read for me. At first, I thought this was going to be another let down thriller, but then about half way through I started to really get sucked into it. I quickly picked up on what was happening, mostly because of reading too many books like this, but it was still pretty gripping until the end of it all.
Even so, through it all, something just didn’t fit right for me. I think it was Rachel. The way the book was setting her up didn’t really feel right for me at all. As I kept reading, things did all fall into place and it ended on a high note, redeeming the unsettling feelings I had in the beginning. That said, nobody can compare to Amy Dunne and while it gave a good effort, Girl on the Train is no Gone Girl.