Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

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Title: The Girl on the Train

Author: Paula Hawkins

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

Publication Date: January 2015

ISBN: 9780385682312

The Girl on the Train

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. 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 offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

—–

There was so much hype about The Girl on the Train that when I saw a copy on the shelf a cute used bookstore, I couldn’t stop myself from bringing this book home to read. I can’t say I was blown away by Hawkins’ debut thriller, but it wasn’t bad reading. It’s a book written for the masses. It reads easily, the crime is shocking, and the protagonist garners our sympathy with her struggle. If you’re looking for a quick book to read, this is the one for you. It doesn’t have much in the way of substance, but the crime will pull you in.

Rachel is an unreliable narrator, as well as an unreliable witness in the crime. As an alcoholic, her memories are spotty and jagged. Even the reader can’t trust her to know what’s going on much of the time.  I did really like this aspect of the novel. It makes everything that comes out of the narrator, Rachel’s mouth, precarious. We don’t know if we can trust her experiences. The reader is, in a way, left to figure things out for themselves, because the truth cannot definitely be told by Rachel. Unreliable narrators can complicate a story, but in this case, I think Rachel’s struggle with alcoholism only adds to the brutality of the situation and the ongoing struggle to solve the crime. She is frustrating, but with the best intentions. She adds an edge of anxiety to the story as a whole because we don’t quite know how she’s involved and how she’s going to disrupt the process of solving the crime.

My biggest criticism is that you see the conclusion coming from a mile away. I knew who the perpetrator was from nearly the second the crime occurred and who likes to read a story when you already know the ending? I’m sure some of you out there do, but I can’t say personally that I’m a fan of knowing how the mystery will be solved just as the story gets going.

I got caught up in the hype with this one. There is merit to reading the mass produced, appeals-to-everyone kind of story, but I try to stay away from a lot of books like these. I much prefer the hidden gem, as opposed to the front and centre story. I definitely see why it appeals to so many people and why it’s gotten great reviews. All in all, this wasn’t a book for me.

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