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A Book Review — The Girl on the Train

I wonder what it feels like to be the #1 book in the Amazon Kindle Store, the #4 book in Books on Amazon, and have over 7,400 reviews in just over two months since publication.  Yeah, The Girl on the Train is one of those kind of books.  The kind that sparks envy in my heart of hearts.  That makes me think that one day I, too, could experience success, if only I could get to serious writing again.  (Hey, I’m working on, I’ve written more in the last week or two than probably the last three or four months.)

Here’s what the Amazon blurb has to say about The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins:

A debut psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people’s lives.

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?

Compulsively readable, The Girl on the Train is an emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller and an electrifying debut.

There are literally tons of rave reviews for the book from anybody who is anybody.  No, seriously, tons.  So, after reading the book, I checked out the one star reviews on Amazon and while they have some truth to them … yes, there are some details that are just too convenient; yes, the protagonist is a weak, unappealing, somewhat disgusting character; yes, there are problems with the story and its characters.  (By the way, another story told with each chapter alternating between the three women who play key roles in the story.)  So, all of those things are true … wait a second, I need to stop here for a moment and share this one negative review with you:

After reading buzzy previews for a couple of months now, I was eagerly awaiting what I thought would be some thought-provoking escapism. Instead, I found myself speed reading the last parts of the book just to get it over with. This book desperately wants to be Gone Girl, and it ends up being nothing much at all. The artificiality of the characters’ voices, speaking in some bizarro broken fourth-wall world, amounts to a strange kind of retroactive over-exposition. It gets thin and annoying by the end. I’m nervous about choosing my next book to read because I don’t want to be so disappointed again.

This is why reviews should always be taken with a grain of salt, including the reviews you read hear on this blog.  Everybody has a different perspective and a different interest in what it is they want to read.  What they find compelling.  What they find worth the time.  I had a thought midway through this book that it was starting to have a Gone Girl feel for me, but there are definitely differences, many of which make this a more interesting story.  And I absolutely loved reading Gone Girl.  I didn’t feel the voices were artificial, I had no sense of a “bizarro broken fourth-wall world,” or much of anything else this reviewer said.  But what really tips me off to completely discrediting the review is this … “thought-provoking escapism.”  Excuse me, isn’t the point of escapism is to avoid thought-provoking?  Aren’t those two concepts diametrically opposed to each other?  Or is that just me?  But, if it isn’t, if a reviewer begins with that contradictory proposition, why bother with the rest of the review?

Okay, so, back to my review.  It’s one of those books I couldn’t put down until the story was over.  Telling the story as it goes backwards and forwards, with the shifting memories and perspectives of the three women who form a somewhat unfortunate trio (what isn’t revealed as truly unfortunate until the very end), kept pulling me along.  As I read, I began to form a suspicion about what had really happened — a suspicion that turned out to be correct — but, and this is my one complaint about the book, it’s like TV mysteries, where everything is going along, with all of the evidence pointing at one or two likely suspects and then all of a sudden in the last five minutes of the show, a different suspect is identified with facts revealed that were never there earlier in the story.  And there’s a mechanism the author uses here to make that possible that some readers may find somewhat incredible to believe.  I didn’t.  I thought there was a very good explanation for the mechanism the author used.

This is definitely a page turner and worth the read.





9 responses to “A Book Review — The Girl on the Train

  1. Carrie Rubin March 15, 2015 at 7:40 pm

    I loved this book, too. What an accomplishment for a first novel. I’m sure the movie version won’t be far away. Yep, Hawkins is definitely having a good year!

  2. Amy Reese March 15, 2015 at 8:28 pm

    I will definitely check this one out. It seems a little convenient to have an unknown character pop up at the end. I’ll keep an open mind. Thanks for your review.

    • kingmidget March 16, 2015 at 6:21 am

      Not an unknown character, just unknown aspects about that character that suddenly come out in the open at just the right moment. Don’t let that stop you from reading the book.

  3. Sally March 15, 2015 at 9:46 pm

    I’ve been reading Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and one of this week’s exercises is to pay attention to what really makes us jealous-it’s a guide to what we need most to do. Sounds like it’s time to clear the decks and write!

  4. John W. Howell March 16, 2015 at 9:34 am

    Good review. I liked seeing the negative review and could taste the jealousy in it. Thanks.

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