Book review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins


The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 13, 2015
Source: Mysteriously found on my desk at work…

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar. Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…

Rachel just knows that something terrible has happened.  She sees the same beautiful, happy couple every morning as she rides the train into London.  Every morning, they’re kissing.  Hugging.  Enjoying their breakfast.  Simply being beautiful and happy.  She feels that she knows this couple, she’s almost friends with them since she’s seen them so much.  She’s nicknamed them Jess and Jason.

One morning, Rachel sees Jess on the deck with someone who is most certainly not Jason.  The two are locked in a passionate embrace, and not long after, Jess’s face is plastered across magazines and newspapers.  She’s missing, and Rachel is 100% certain that it has something to do with the strange man she was kissing on her deck.  But should she say something? After all, she doesn’t actually know this couple.  She’s only a girl on the train.

I was a little slow to read this one.  If I’m being honest, I actually didn’t want to read it at all.  I’m always saying how I have this thing with hyped books.  I never like them as much as I should, or as much as I think I might have if I didn’t have sky-high expectations going in.  But I came into work one day a few weeks ago and this book was sitting on my desk, loaned by one of my coworkers.

So I read it.

And I didn’t hate it, but I can’t really say that I enjoyed it.  It was fine, I guess.  Just fine.

The Girl on the Train is often compared to Gone Girl, and I think that’s one of the reasons I didn’t like it.  Because I, for one, really enjoyed Gone Girl, and I don’t think that it’s on the same level as The Girl on the Traini.  I could understand the motivations in Gone Girl.  Everybody was horrible, but they knew it.  In The Girl on the Train, everybody is horrible, but they don’t realize it. They all accuse each other of being awful but think of themselves as victims. I kept feeling like I was supposed to feel bad for Rachel, but I couldn’t.  She needed to get herself together.

The writing is fine, I guess, but the thing that upset me the most was how Rachel conveniently couldn’t remember the stretches of time that were vital to the investigation. Knowing that she’s an unreliable narrator, I almost thought that she was faking it at first – just pretending not to remember so that she could hide what actually happened that night.  But no, this is just a plot device so that she has a reason to see the psychologist or roam around her old neighborhood or feel bad about herself and spiral into another gin-and-tonic-induced blackout.

And then that ending – completely over-the-top.  I’m not convinced that any of these characters are better off.  I don’t think they’ve learned anything.  They haven’t learned any lessons or grown into better people.  They’ve just been dragged through the mud and left to fend for themselves. I need something at the end of a book.  Something to make the hours I spent reading worth it.

When I finished, I was left kind of puzzled about why this book is so popular.  It’s not bad by any means, but I didn’t think it was particularly good, either.  Overall, I think this book was too much it’s fine and not enough wow, this is amazing.

For my 2016 reading challenge, I’m crossing off #27: a murder mystery.