The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins is the second book in my personal challenge to read and review 12 books in 12 months. You can see the rules I’m following for this challenge in a previous post, here. To read my first review, click here.
In this review series, I will do my best to avoid major spoilers. I personally define a spoiler as anything giving away a major plot point that you couldn’t find out just by reading a book’s cover or reading some other ad for the book. I will, however, tell you what kind of content to expect (romance, adventure, action, gore, sex, etc.) I know I like to see that kind of information when I’m looking for something new to read.
A brief overview of the book:
Genre: Mystery (described as a “thriller” on the book jacket)
Content: There is some sexual content in this book, but not a lot. Some violence, but nothing beyond what’s typical for an adult book in the genre.
The Girl on the Train is a mystery novel in which a woman disappears under mysterious circumstances, and it seems the only person who’s seen anything is the main character, Rachel, an alcoholic who passes the vanished woman’s home on the train every day. The book follows Rachel as she chases bits of foggy memory from one possibility to another. It’s a story about Rachel trying to gain credibility as a witness, and her struggle to remember what exactly happened that night.
This is a book that’s been compared to Gone Girl pretty much nonstop. In fact, one of the reasons I chose to read it was because I’d heard it was very similar to Gone Girl. Between this book’s use of literary devices like the unreliable narrator and the recurring theme of married couples not really knowing each other, I definitely see where the comparison comes from. Both are also mystery/thrillers (though I think this book is more mystery than thriller, while Gone Girl may be more thriller than mystery.) Both involve a disappearing woman, and a husband who’s far from the perfect grieving figure. Ultimately though, I think Gone Girl is a more intricately woven work of fiction than this book is.
The Girl on the Train is what I’d consider a fairly easy read as far as adult fiction is concerned. If you’re looking for a book you can just pick up and read on the beach without too much effort, this is a great book for you right now. It’s entertaining, it draws you in, and it has an exciting plot with plenty of action. Having said that, if you’re looking for a more contemplative read, this isn’t it. I bought it on sale one day at Target because I let myself glance at the book section and well, books are my weakness. In hindsight, I would have been perfectly happy to have just borrowed this from the library and returned it afterwards. There’s just not so much meat to this book. I won’t be rereading it any time soon–not until I’ve forgotten how it ends.
The characters are interesting, but there were at least a few important ones that I didn’t feel I knew well enough by the end of the book for the amount of time the story spends on them. I also found myself getting sick of the main character after a while. This isn’t a book with a perfectly average main character who’s fairly easy to relate to. Frankly, there’s something pretty messed up about each of the important characters in this book. I happen to sometimes enjoy books like that, depending on how they’re handled, but with this one I just got a little too bogged down by Rachel’s thoughts.
The story jumps from one point of view to another fairly frequently, and I sometimes felt like escaping Rachel’s mind was a breath of fresh air. Then again, you could argue that when it comes to Rachel’s thoughts, Hawkins chose to be accurate, since someone with that character’s mental health issues probably would have pretty dark thoughts. If this book hadn’t changed point of view as much as it did, I think it would have been an excessively dark read, so I have to give Hawkins credit for realizing that.
Have any book recommendations? Maybe you’ve read this book too and have thoughts to share! Feel free to leave a comment below.