Distiller: A.R. Braithwaite
Rating: 4/5 stars
The Girl on the Train
by Paula Hawkins
January 13th, 2015
I actually read this book a couple of months ago and have been avoiding writing this review, not because I didn't like the book, but I've had a hard time figuring out how to distill the ideas from it and explain how it made me feel. This is what I have finally come up with, hopefully it gives you a sense of what this book is and helps you decide whether or not you should give it a try too.
The girl on the train is Rachel, every day she rides the same commuter train and watches the same suburban families going about their lives as she looks out from her comfortable seat. She makes up names for some of them, imagining that she knows who they are and what they do. One specific couple has a seemingly perfect life and marriage, but one day she witnesses something appalling that she simply cannot forget. Rachel takes this knowledge to the police and invites herself into a much larger scale problem, pushing her head first into an experience that not only changes her life forever, but the lives of everyone else involved too. Should she have just left it alone?
Although Rachel is the protagonist and driving force moving the story along, I enjoyed reading the different women's perspectives throughout the story. The main reason I enjoyed them is because it helped me to continue questioning where the narrative was going and how it was getting there, especially since Rachel is at times a very unreliable narrator. This book was not easily predictable, although some signs are plainly given and the end wraps everything together in a plainly logical fashion based on the clues Hawkins provides. I did find the work to be sexist overall (towards both sexes, but mostly men) and, like many other works I've been encountering lately, it purports a theme that there aren't any genuinely good people in the world. That theme bothers me and makes me sad to think that so many people feel like they can't trust their significant other, or friends, or anyone else because we don't ever really know them. There was only one genuinely good and loyal character that I can remember from this book, Rachel's roommate, and she is often made into a doormat for others to walk all over. Maybe I'm a bit too much of an idealist, but I find this theme misleading and dishonest. However, the way things play out and how people are dishonest with each other (as well as themselves) is interesting at times and I liked getting enveloped into it all.
It was a satisfying read that I probably won't read again, but mostly because I'm not a huge crime mystery fan and the sexism wasn't for me. This novel did open my mind and made me realize how much I enjoy dipping into the crime genre from time to time though. I recommend this book for thrill seekers who are not easily squeamish when it comes to violence. Another disclaimer: one scene in particular made me burst into tears, so there is something to say for Hawkins' writing and how she is able to intimately involve the reader with her character's experiences.