Late Thursday night, I finished reading “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins – the latest read in Blanche’s Book Club. I have mixed feelings about this book – mostly positive – but still mixed. Before I go any further, I’ll at least give you a little info on the story:
From an Amazon.com review: Intersecting, overlapping, not-quite-what-they-seem lives. Jealousies and betrayals and wounded hearts. A haunting unease that clutches and won’t let go. All this and more helps propel Paula Hawkins’s addictive debut into a new stratum of the psychological thriller genre. At times, I couldn’t help but think:Hitchcockian.
From the opening line, the reader knows what they’re in for: “She’s buried beneath a silver birch tree, down towards the old train tracks…” But Hawkins teases out the mystery with a veteran’s finesse. The “girl on the train” is Rachel, who commutes into London and back each day, rolling past the backyard of a happy-looking couple she names Jess and Jason. Then one day Rachel sees “Jess” kissing another man. The day after that, Jess goes missing. The story is told from three character’s not-to-be-trusted perspectives: Rachel, who mourns the loss of her former life with the help of canned gin and tonics; Megan (aka Jess); and Anna, Rachel’s ex-husband’s wife, who happens to be Jess/Megan’s neighbor. Rachel’s voyeuristic yearning for the seemingly idyllic life of Jess and Jason lures her closer and closer to the investigation into Jess/Megan’s disappearance, and closer to a deeper understanding of who she really is. And who she isn’t. This is a book to be devoured. -Neal Thompson
So… I’ll start by saying that I didn’t expect this book to be scary. A friend leant me the book, and she handed it to me saying, “This girl on a train sees something happen, and she’s not sure what to do.” And so, I took the book with that information and nothing else.
On the night I finished the book, I slept with the bathroom light on. Because, it was a little creepy, and I’m a pretty big scaredy cat.
I’ll say that it didn’t take me long to read the book. I thought it was riveting, and well-written. However, I don’t think any of the characters were very likeable, and that’s KEY in a book with so many emotions. The author’s job is to get the reader to care about one, or more, of the characters, so that when something happens to them, we feel something and are pulling for them. I didn’t necessarily feel this way – I felt the book probably should have been longer to provide more backstory in order to make this happen.
Anyway, I found a reader’s guide online, with some pretty good questions, and there’s one I’d like to address here:
We all do it—actively watch life around us. In this way, with her own voyeuristic curiosity, Rachel Watson is not so unusual. What do you think accounts for this nosey, all-too-human impulse? Is it more extreme in Rachel than in the average person? What is so different about her?
I think, as humans, we all have some sort of desire to fit in – and in order to fit in, we have to know what other people are doing, in order to compare ourselves and our lives. In Rachel’s case, I think she was more trying to check up on her ex, his new family, and her old home. And in doing that, she got caught up with anyone she saw along the way.
This story took place in 2013, and I think the author did a poor job of recognizing that, for an hour-long train commute, most people would have their heads buried in their smartphones, or perhaps a book, instead of looking at things outside. So, if Rachel was indeed that obsessed with the people outside and not her phone, as I believe she was, there should have been more context surrounding it – was it because she really had no one to talk to or connect with?
Do I think this book is worth reading? Yes. And I also saw that it’s going to be a move, out in October. I think it will be worth seeing – although I’m not sure I’ll be able to sleep afterward.
If you read this book, I’d love to hear what you thought of it!
The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Andy Cohen Diaries” by Andy Cohen. Want to read it with us? We’d love to have you! Share your thoughts on the book with us via the comments, email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or on Twitter & SnapChat @OrangeJulius7.