The Girl on the Train Review


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.

Top 8 Books I Read in 2014


For the last few years, I have been in the habit of writing down every book that I read for the year. The first year I read something like 70 odd books, and about 25 graphic novels. Last year, I read barely any, and my pathetic total was a mere 26. This year I fared a bit better, and my total at this point, and likely by the time the clock turns over to the New Year in just a couple of days, is 39. I am currently reading a 40th but I’m not sure I’ll finish it, so here are the top eight books I have actually read in 2014. In no particular order, they are as follows.

Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn (2012)
I had intended to read this book long before this year but never got the chance. Upon reading it however, it became not only one of my favourite books for the year, but one of my top books of all time. Written both from the perspective of Nick, and diary entries from his missing wife, Amy, Gone Girl tells the story of a love turned sour, and yet does so in a way that makes you believe these broken, messed up people are actually perfect for each other. Gillian Flynn writes from a male perspective so well that if you didn’t know better, you’d swear she was a man herself. And Amy, whoa. As terrifying as she is, you can’t help but respect a woman who would go to such lengths to get revenge. With such exceptionally well written characters, and a superb plot, I unabashedly give this book a 10/10.

The Book Thief – Markus Zusak (2005)
The Book Thief was another one of those books I had always seen, but never gotten around to buying. Set in Nazi Germany, it tells the story of Liesel, a young girl taken in by foster parents after the death of her brother. The novel is narrated not by the protagonist, but by an omniscient Death. The plot follows Liesel as she grows up and develops a love for books, and goes to great lengths to obtain more. Throughout the novel we meet an interesting array of characters, including her foster parents Hans and Rosa, her best friend Rudy and Jewish fist fighter, Max, and I found myself falling in love with all of them. The plot has a lot of interesting twists and turns, and I could really relate to a feisty young girl who loved books and learning, and still wasn’t afraid to get muddy with the boys. A great read.

Haunted – Chuck Palahniuk (2005)
Haunted is one of those books that I bought without knowing anything about it, simply because I have read everything else Chuck has written and loved (most of) it. The plot is actually a series of 23 short stories, all preceded by short poems and all linking in to a main narrative. In typical Chuck fashion, it is largely depraved and awesomely entertaining. Haunted follows a group of 17 writers who go away on a ‘writers retreat’ that turns out to be nothing more than an old theatre, which they are locked in for three months until they write a best-selling novel. The events that follow are in the same vein as Chuck’s other novels; increasingly dark and morbid as the writers decide to sabotage themselves in order to make their stories more tragic, and thus make them infinitely more famous when they’re released. While not my favourite Chuck novel, it was still an entertaining read.

The Fault in Our Stars – John Green (2012)
Now, before you go rolling your eyes, hear me out. I didn’t read this just because everyone else was, and it’s not on my list because I’m a girly girl who loves love. It’s on my list because I really liked the way John Green writes teenagers. This books follows Hazel, a cancer patient who knows the reality of her inevitable death and doesn’t try to glorify it or make excuses for it. I felt like the characters were real and totally down to earth. Even Hazel’s romance with Augustus Waters (because you need to say his full name), despite being really intense, is still believable. I guess what I liked most about this book was the fact that it wasn’t just another teenage love story. It tackled real issues, while still being a compelling and entertaining read. It didn’t make me cry like everyone else did, but that’s more a reflection on me than it is on the book, and it was nevertheless worth reading.

Skulduggery Pleasant; The Dying of the Light – Derek Landy (2014)
The seventh and final book in the Skulduggery Pleasant series, this book was a bittersweet read for me. I have been a Landy fangirl ever since reading the first Skulduggery novel in high school, and despite waiting for this book for months prior to its release, I was sad to see it end. In The Dying of the Light, we once more join our favourite skeleton detective and his partner, Valkyrie Cain as they fight to save the world yet again in the biggest and baddest battle they’ve ever fought, against the delightfully evil Darquesse. Written with all of Derek Landy’s clever wit and snappy one liners, and bringing back most of our beloved characters (Oh, Ghastly *wipes tear*) this book was a perfect ending to the series I love so much I’m getting a Skulduggery tattoo. Hey, I told you I was a fangirl.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman (2013)
This list wouldn’t be complete without another of my favourite authors, and with a title like that, there was no way I couldn’t read it. The Ocean at the End of the Lane centres around an unnamed protagonist, who returns to his home town for a funeral and ends up remembering events from his childhood that he had forgotten. There are very strong themes in this book, covering everything from magic and the battle between good and evil, to friendship and the love of family. Though not especially long, it was a captivating plot and seemed to fit a lot more into the pages than you would expect from a book of that length, Once again, Neil Gaiman proves himself a sensational writer and I finished this book in one sitting, a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Sharp Objects – Gillian Flynn (2006)
There is a reason Gillian Flynn gets two mentions on this list. Her debut novel follows journalist Camille Preaker, as she returns unwillingly to her hometown to report on vicious murders. Flynn has a knack for writing severely messed up female characters, and Sharp Objects is no exception. Everyone from Camille herself, to her half-sister Amma, and their quietly vicious mother Adora, has something to hide in this stunning debut, and this book strongly echoes the old adage ‘you never know what goes on behind closed doors’. Spectacularly written, Sharp Objects encompasses the realities of small towns, and teenage girls trying to break free from childhood and assert themselves as adults. Admittedly these characters take that to a whole new level, but it was nevertheless a wonderful book and well worth reading, if you haven’t already.

Eleanor and Park – Rainbow Rowell (2012)
Written from the perspectives of both Park; a quiet Asian kid hovering somewhere between popular and not, and Eleanor, the new girl at school who is unashamedly herself, there was something about this book that I just found really sweet. The two central characters, while initially disliking each other, soon bond over a mutual love of comic books and music, and as their friendship develops into something more, we learn a bit more about what makes each of them so unique. In parts, a teenage love story and in parts a reflection on how different family dynamics can shape a person, this book really struck a chord with me. The plot didn’t go the way I thought it would, but the open ending left me with a grin and I would happily recommend this book to anyone.

So there you go. If you haven’t read some, or any of the books on my list, I recommend you go and read them. Each of them awesome books in their own right, they, along with the rest of the books I finished in 2014, made for a great year in reading. I can only say that I look forward to reading more in 2015, so that this time next year I have a whole new list of recommendations for you. Go forth and read, my word loving brethren!

Gone Girl (2014)


Lets talk about Gone Girl. The film, based on Gillian Flynn’s novel of the same name, was released in cinemas a couple of weeks ago. I saw it last week but have been lazy and slack and thus, am only getting around to this review now.

I read the book a couple of months ago and absolutely loved it. The plot was in equal parts intriguing, suspenseful and consuming and the characters were exceptionally well written, complex and completely believable. In a number of interviews, Gillian Flynn said that she wanted to explore the ‘psychology and dynamics of a long-term relationship’ and that was certainly a major theme throughout the book. I was particularly impressed with her ability to write convincingly from a male point of view. Nick Dunne was very real and didn’t have any of the girlyness that a lot of female-written male characters seem to have in spades. I read the whole book in a few hours so when the film release date was announced, I was keen to see how it would play out on film. I wasn’t disappointed.

Directed by David Fincher (Fight Club, Se7en) and adapted for the screen by Gillian Flynn herself, the story follows Nick Dunne who, on the day of his fifth wedding anniversary discovers that his wife, Amy, is missing and soon becomes the prime suspect in her disappearance. Told from the perspective of Nick in the present, and Amy’s diary entries, the film remained faithful to the book and lived up to my expectations of excellence. It tackled themes of marriage, obsession, and how far one is willing to go in the pursuit of revenge.

I’ll be honest, I’m not Ben Affleck’s biggest fan. From a purely aesthetic (and entirely shallow) point of view, there’s just something about his face that I don’t like. However, he won me over with his portrayal of Nick. I found myself really feeling for the character, perhaps even more so than I did in the book. Everything from Nick’s awkwardly involuntary desperation for social acceptance to his quietly burning rage was acted to perfection. And as for Rosamund Pike, who plays the aforementioned Amy, her performance was chillingly good. Beautiful and delicate, and yet at the same time the very epitome of ice queen, I’m positive that no one else could have played the role as accurately and/or awesomely. Excellent performances from supporting actors, Neil Patrick Harris (Desi Collings), Tyler Perry (Tanner Bolt) and Carrie Coon (Margo Dunne) rounded out a superb cast.

Typical of Fincher, the film was dark and quietly sinister, but there was some well placed comic relief (watch out for the ‘world class vagina’ comment) and, my bias aside, he has once again proved to the world why he is one of the greatest directors in Hollywood. One thing I would have liked to see was Amy’s full ‘Cool Girl’ monologue. The film really played on the notion of people pretending to be someone they’re not, and I felt that the monologue would have really driven that concept home. Other than that, and the fact that I would have liked to see a bit more of Nick’s relationship with Andie, I really can’t find fault with the film at all. I loved it, and give it a 4.8 our of 5. Do yourself a favour and go see it.