Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train: A Novel
by Paula Hawkins

Publisher's Blurb:
A debut psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people's lives.

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. 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.

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 offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

A compulsively readable, emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller that draws comparisons to Gone Girl, The Silent Wife, or Before I Go to Sleep, this is an electrifying debut embraced by readers across markets and categories.

My Reaction:
I guess I "enjoyed" this book full of characters I either hated or felt frustrated with.  I enjoyed it in the sense that I wanted to see what they'd do next-- wanted to know how it would all unravel.  Though parts of it became painfully repetitive (Rachel's self-destructive behavior), the story held my interest; however, the last five percent or so felt weak and unrealistic.  A bit too much of that element of the Bond villain who's suddenly so willing to waste time going into details when there's really no need to do so.  I figured out whodunnit fairly well in advance, but because it felt too obvious, I wouldn't have been surprised if there had been a twist.  Nope; I was right this time!

Specifics (with SPOILERS):
--  Rachel is an interesting character to watch develop-- or maybe I should say that the way she's presented is interesting.  But at a certain point I got so frustrated with her!  The helpless repetition of the same sick patterns!  I guess I've never known someone with such an addiction, and if this is what it's really like, I'm afraid I wouldn't have the patience to deal with it for very long...

--  There were very, very few completely decent and likeable characters here.  Rachel's roommate, Cathy, is one (even if she's only a very marginal presence).  I don't see how she put up with that nonsense.  I guess the red-haired mystery man on the train was a decent(ish) guy, even if he seems to be too fond of drink.  (Hey, if he wasn't baby-snatching, cheating, lying, murdering, or battering, he's automatically in contention for the Citizen of the Book Award!)  Then there's Kamal... I'd like him better if he hadn't been so allured by Megan-- but at least he didn't give in to temptation.

--  "If he thinks I'm going to sit around crying over him, he's got another think coming."  This looked so strange to me!  I've always thought the saying was "got another thing coming".  "Another think" makes sense, now that I've seen it, but still-- looks wrong.  From the little I've read online, it seems that it may be a regional/dialectal variation.  No telling which one is "correct" (or came first).

--  Another language observation:  A few times, the baby/toddler is said to "grizzle".  It's obviously descriptive of the fussing noises that a baby makes before s/he begins to all-out cry-- but it's a new one on me.

--  As annoying as Rachel can be, she's practically a saint compared to most of her fellow characters!  Megan has her trampy, cheating ways... (Obviously she doesn't deserve to be murdered for her sins, but gosh, what a disgusting woman-- and rather stupid to boot.)  Scott is a bully with violent tendencies... Tom is a psychopath, a pathological liar, an abuser, and-- oh, right, a murderer.  And Anna... Good grief, what an absolute b***h!  Her frequent digs about Rachel's weight...  Ugh, I kind of hate Anna. (Not crazy about her kid, either, to be honest.  Stop the darn grizzling, Evie.)

--  At about the point that Tom comes home to find Rachel and Anna talking, the book takes a turn for the worse.  It feels so unrealistic.  Anna seems to swing back and forth between sanity and thinking that she and Tom can somehow salvage their "perfect" life from this wreckage.  Tom's sudden willingness to dish out the whole story is very convenient-- and some of the things he says!  "Now, now, Rach. ... Let's not do anything stupid."  ...Is that from The Compendium of Cliched Things Villains Say?  Oh, and don't get me started on the corkscrew.  The ol' eyes got a good rolling out of that one.  Especially when Anna was screwing it in a little further.  I don't know... I guess it was more unusual than an old-fashioned knife would've been.  It's certainly gruesome enough. 

--  Based on the reader reviews I've skimmed, this book appears to elicit a broad range of reactions.  I don't think it's the best book ever written, but neither did I loathe it.  It's fine for what it is-- a page-turner.  I didn't come away from it a changed woman.  No catharsis.  No weeping and wailing.  No mirror held up to my very inmost soul.  Just a story to pass some time.  That's fine.  I don't actually want to be spiritually altered by every (any?) book I read.