So as part of my New Year’s Resolutions, I wanted to read books that were “out of my comfort zone” or books that I wouldn’t normally choose. One good way for me to find those books is the book club that my mom and I go to at our local library. So this month, the book for our book club was The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. I know this book was extremely popular when it came out in January of 2015 and has been popular since then (especially with the movie that came out in October of last year). But it’s not something I picked up because I don’t usually pick up suspense or thriller books.
For those of you who aren’t familiar, here’s the summary from the publisher:
EVERY DAY THE SAME
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?
I have to say that I enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I wood – even though the main characters aren’t particularly good people, I mean, they’re sympathetic but I wouldn’t say that I would be friends with any of them in real life.
——- Note, Light Spoilers Ahead ——–
“The Girl on the Train” is told from the perspective of several characters – Rachel, Megan and Anna. Who I consider the main character – Rachel – is spiraling out of control throughout a good portion of the book. An alcoholic who drinks so much that she’s been fired from her job and almost kicked out of her apartment, she makes for an unreliable narrator with blank spots in her memory and several blackout sessions. The premise of the book is that while commuting to and from London, Rachel observes a couple (she calls them Jess and Jason – they’re actually Megan and Scott) and builds a fictional narrative around their lives. Then she sees something scandalous that changes everything and then someone goes missing. And lives are turned upside down.
I won’t tell you what happens but I wanted to comment on some of my favorite and least favorite aspects of the book.
As I mentioned, the book is told from the perspective of three different narrators and also jumps around from a time perspective. Sometimes this type of set-up can drive me crazy and make the book hard to follow. But in this case, it not only worked well but I think really made the book interesting and exciting. I loved getting to hear different people’s perspectives – especially since none of the three were particularly reliable or objective as narrators – and the timeline helped to fill in the story and allow for a lot of character development. I honestly think the author’s skill allowed this format to be perfect.
The book deals with a lot of hard topics… alcoholism, domestic abuse, death – so it’s definitely not an easy/comfortable/uplifting read. And normally those are the types of books I prefer. But this one was so interesting that it definitely kept my attention. It wasn’t just a “who-dun-it” type of suspense but also focused a lot on the character development.
What I didn’t love was that the characters kept letting me down – and what I mean by that is that many of the characters continued to make the same mistakes and poor choices. Something that frustrates me both in life and in books. It obviously wasn’t a deal breaker in this book but it wasn’t my favorite part.
If the psychological thriller or suspense is a genre you like, or even if it’s not one you generally gravitate towards but want to try out, I think “The Girl on the Train” is a book I would definitely recommend! (And now I want to see the movie to see how it compares!)