The Girl on the Train is as much a mystery, as it is a course in self-loathing and alcoholism.
1/5 Rescored from a 2, hated this.
Type of Story: 1st person murder mystery with a lot of personal introspection.
Plot – 2(Fine)
Characters – 2(Weak)
Setting – 3(Fine)
Writing Style – 2(Weak)
Heart & Mind Aspect – 1(Very Weak)
Rachel is a divorcée that can’t get over her marriage falling apart because her husband ended up marrying the woman he cheated on her with. Not only that, but Tom, Rachel’s ex, and Anna, the new wife, live in the same home that Rachel and Tom used to live in. Rachel has become an alcoholic through the heartbreak and the only thing that is any interest to her is the home of two strangers that she sees from her train. She idealizes this couple that she sees from the train, creating an entire life for them, and looks forward to the train stopping at the usual stop, so that she can see what is going on with these strangers. Interestingly enough, Tom and Anna live on the same exact block as these strangers that she watches from the train. One day, Rachel sees that a local woman is missing on the news, and it is the woman that lives in the house that Rachel watches. Rachel, having seen something suspicious, gets involved in the investigation to find the missing woman.
Why you might enjoy this book:
The Girl on the Train sets up an interesting situation. A stranger is obsessed with a couple that she doesn’t know but she also has information that might help the investigation into the disappearance. If she goes and tells the police what she knows, she might possibly save someone’s life, but there is a risk that she will be looked at like some stalker, or a peeping Tom. I liked the idea of a person that always takes the same train every single day, twice a day, and noticing small details about a house. I like that Rachel creates this imaginary world around what she thinks these people might be like. The setting with the trains, the small suburb neighborhood, and going into London during the day was really interesting to me. The world inside Rachel’s head ended up being more interesting to me than what was actually going on.
The plot is your standard missing person, but it is so much more intimate because of the way the author writes in first person from the perspectives of the three main women. Each woman has some information in regards to what is going on that ramps the story up. There are plenty of red herrings and as soon as you think you have something figured out, you start second guessing yourself. The characters have some serious flaws, which I’ll get into later, but they serve the purpose of creating a decent mysterious plot. If Hawkins would have focused more on the plot, maybe added more twists and turns, instead of focusing so much on the feelings of the three female leads, the book would have worked better for me. I also think that more information about the two detectives would have made the plot more well-rounded. Regardless, The Girls on the Train delivers a taught storyline and has good suspense.
Why you might not enjoy this book:
The main reason I did not enjoy this book, and possibly why you might not enjoy this book, is because the inner monologues of the three female characters are irritating. Rachel, the main character, is someone I just did not enjoy listening to. She has some serious problems that make her just completely loath herself. This story is about hurting people, characters that have depression, anxiety issues, alcoholism, abusive, and are downtrodden. I empathize with real life people all the time and the emotions of others effect me greatly, so I was finding myself actually depressed after reading some of this book. In my reading life, I want to be entertained, I don’t really want to listen to people complain about their life. There were MANY times in the novel where I thought, “get some self respect woman!” Due to the fact I read this book in audio book form, it felt like someone complaining to me non-stop.
Rachel wants her ex-husband back so badly, and she is basically stalking him and his wife. She drinks constantly and blacks out on occasion. In fact, Rachel blacking out when she is drunk, is a HUGE plot device in this book. For the majority of the book it is her trying to remember what she saw when she was blacked out. I really disliked this plot device because it makes an easy way to write missing information about the mystery without having to actually create clues or suspense. I just did not enjoy Hawkins’ decision to add blacking out as a way to create unknown variables. However, I must admit, that I get annoyed by drunk people in real life, so this might be the reason I’m not a big fan of this plot device. There was just so much talk about drinking and the ramifications of drinking in this book, that I remember thinking this would be a perfect example for Alcoholics Anonymous to get people sober.
The last reason I didn’t really enjoy this book is because of the way that infidelity was portrayed. Cheating on your spouse is a horrible thing to do to someone else, yet Hawkins never really shows this side of cheating. She shows the result of infidelity but the actual remorse for cheating is seriously lacking. Infidelity is just seen as something people do when they are bored or unhappy. When women cheat on men in this book, it seemed alright, because they were unhappy in their marriage, that it was alright, as long as it makes you happy, and makes things better for you. It is an extremely self-centered way to look at it and there wasn’t a character that balanced this view of infidelity out. However, I felt that the blame was more on the man during this book. This book just made me feel uncomfortable, because I don’t think it accurately portrayed the responsibilities of both men and women. It seemed to show a more positive light on the women side of things.
I had some serious qualms about this book and the mystery plot and setting was just alright. I am rather “meh” about the entire book at this point. I have a feeling this won’t age well. If you are looking for a mainstream thriller mystery, I think you can do better than this. The characters are depressing, the plot device annoying, and the characters are just not likable. It also seemed to be tailored more towards women readers than books I usually read. This is not this year’s “Gone Girl.” Gone Girl is a much better novel than this.