I just finished reading The Girl on the Train. I heard about it after a reference was made to it being in a similar vein to Gone Girl, and to be honest, I think that’s where a large part of the book’s popularity stems from. In the same way Fifty Shades of Grey spurned an influx of erotic fiction (as loath as I am to use that tripe as an example), Gone Girl has prompted the popularity of crime thrillers.
The Girl on the Train tells a story from multiple perspectives, in the same way Gone Girl does, only with more characters. And I don’t know if Paula Hawkins intended it to be so, or if it was just me, but there wasn’t a single likeable character in the whole book. That’s not to say that the book was bad. The characters were rather well written, and the plot was intriguing, with a twist I didn’t put together until a chapter or so before it was revealed. But by gosh, did I hate those women.
On one hand, you have Rachael. An obsessive drunk with a penchant for seeking sympathy where it isn’t deserved. On the other hand, you have Anna. A smug, whiny mother who thinks she’s better than everyone else. And then there’s Megan; troubled, petulant, a bored wife, seeking outside thrills to satiate her restlessness. None of these women inspired anything in me besides repulsion, for various reasons. And the male characters weren’t much better.
The story essentially follows Rachael, who catches glimpses of the lives of the people in the houses along the train line as she rides the train every day. When she witnesses something unexpected, she finds herself – largely due to that obsessive nature I mentioned earlier – thrust into the tumultuous, messy lives of these people she knows only by sight. Not satisfied to just sit and speculate, she is soon caught in an insidious web of lies and deceit, with murder right at the heart of it all.
The story unfolds through the major plot and subplots throughout, all intermingling to create a pretty good story. Despite the characters’ unlikeable natures, they were, to Hawkins’ credit, not necessarily overly unreal. It’s not unthinkable that their own personal struggles are real and relatable, if not to me then at least to others. There was a messy, gritty quality to the book and the characters that lends itself to believability. If there’s one thing I hate in books, it’s those perfect characters that have never made a mistake in their lives, and writing flawless characters is certainly one thing the author cannot be accused of.
The story itself actually had me reasonably captivated. There were a lot of variables and it was written in such a way that you didn’t know exactly where it was going to go, as sometimes happens with this particular genre. All in all, I found it to be an enjoyable read and I’d probably give it a 7/10.