Time for a good old fashioned book review!
So, as I said before, this was the book I finished before taking a break and reading Matilda. So far my book-tastes this year have been taken over by memoirs, true crime and psychological thrillers. I’ve been devouring Gillian Flynn lately, she is so good.
(P.S: If you haven’t read Dark Places yet, go do it. Now.)
So, The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins, falls right into this psychological-thriller category. In fact, I got the name of the book from various articles I read on what else to read when you’ve unfortunately eaten up all of Flynn’s lovely books. So this was the first one I thought I would give a try.
I have to say, this was a pretty good read as far as pace, character development, mystery and suspense with a nice juicy twist thrown in there.
The book follows Rachel, a woman who is having a pretty hard time. Every day she takes a commuter train into the city where she is supposed to be working at the job she was recently fired from. Instead she goes into town to work on getting a job so her roommate and landlord doesn’t suspect anything.
On the way into town, she always sees a young couple going about their morning on the balcony of their suburban home. She imagines them to be a perfect couple. But then the woman, Megan, goes missing. Later she turns up dead.
We eventually learn that Rachel was in that neighborhood the night Megan went missing, but she can’t remember anything about that night. Oh, did I mention her cheating ex-husband lives just a few houses down from Megan? And Rachel has a particularly bad case of alcoholism-induced amnesia? Yeah.
I won’t spoil the ending because what fun is that?
However, I will talk about some important themes here. The whole idea of Rachel seeing this couple everyday and tracking their actions from the train window is very interesting. I mean, when I used to take the Lightrail in Phoenix, I would see the same people doing the same things virtually every day. This book really taps into that detached eavesdropping nature of all commuters and I often wonder how often things like this actually happen. If one day someone goes missing, who was always on your train to work, would you notice? What if the police questioned you about the person? Would they even question you? What would you say? I am so fascinated by this aspect of the story, and it really kept me thinking throughout the book.
This book also homes in on the problem of alcohol-induced amnesia, which is extremely interesting. To me, a person who has never been drunk for this exact reason, I can’t imaging waking up and not knowing what happened. Not having control over my actions and the not knowing has kept me from drinking over the edge. You could argue that this is a PSA about alcoholism, if you really wanted to. The way Hawkins the biology about this is very interesting — that you can’t retrieve memories of what happened because your brain was literally not able to make memories at that point. So you’re vulnerable, and add to that a manipulative ex-husband and his paranoid new wife. Bad stuff is bound to happen.
Another thing I love about these books, The Girl on the Train included, is the grit and pure honesty of the characters. All these characters are horrible in their own way. They all have their demons, their bad personality traits, their bad choices, etc. No one is purely good. And I love that. It gives the story a darkness, but also makes the story more grounded. Like, of course this could happen because this is really what life is like.
I have to say that I did not expect the twist, and it was sort of a let down for me. I don’t know why, but I guess I was just expecting something a bit more shocking. However, I still enjoyed the twist and how it brought these two former enemies together against a common enemy.
I ended up giving this book four stars on my Goodreads page, because in the end it was entertaining and I did enjoy it. The small little let downs at the end are what held it back for me. But, all in all, it was a thrill to read.
Aside: I have mixed feelings about the movie, but the trailer did look pretty awesome and haunting. We shall see how they do. As long as they don’t change the ending, I’m sure it will be great.
Have you read The Girl on the Train? What did you think about the twist? What do you think about the movie adaptation? Let’s talk.