Mini Review: The Girl on the Train

Mini Review: The Girl on the TrainTitle: The Girl on the Train
Author: Paula Hawkins
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Release Date: January 13, 2015
Source: Borrowed
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: 3 Stars

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?

my thoughts

I’m honestly struggling for what to say about The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. It has left me somewhat at a loss for words. The story itself was a bit lackluster, which I’m afraid is due partly to my own unfair expectations. It received a starred review in Library Journal, and I had read several reviews that described is an edge-of-your-seat thriller. That, it was not, however. At least not until the very end. The beginning was super slow. It took several chapters for the story to start flowing at a pace that made me want to continue reading in the same sitting. And the characters? Ick! Like in Gone Girl (a comparison I’ve seen repeatedly which, in my opinion, is spot-on), the characters in The Girl on the Train are detestable. There isn’t a single one that I wanted to root for (one of the characters did have me fooled for a while, but then nope, never mind!). However, I did enjoy this book so much more than Gone Girl— I felt that these characters, though unlikable, had some depth to them, and at times, I even found myself sympathizing them.

I know I sound super negative, and you’re probably thinking to yourself, “why did she give it 3 stars if she didn’t like it?” Well, there were things about this book that I really did like. I really like suspense novels. I like looking at each character that is presented to the story and wondering if he/she is the murderer, and this story is so intricately woven that there are several characters that seem viable as the “bad guy.” The way that Hawkins weaves the first-person perspectives of three different females into a cohesive narrative is very impressive. You get to see into the lives of the different characters from different perspectives, and I found that fascinating how the same story can look so different (or similar, in some cases) through another person’s eyes. I did figure out who the culprit was, but it was late in the novel, and it was such a surprise that I wasn’t disappointed that I figured it out early.

I wish I hadn’t had such high expectations for The Girl on the Train. I feel so let down by these books like this one and Gone Girl that promised to be “unputdownable.” However, I’m starting to think that maybe I have some unfair expectations of the genre of psychological thriller as a whole. I’m not sure. But all-in-all, I would recommend this book to someone who likes mysteries with unreliable narrators, because this book does achieve that quite well.

memorable quotes

“I can’t do this, I can’t just be a wife. I don’t understand how anyone does it–there is literally nothing to do but wait. Wait for a man to come home and love you. Either that or look around for something to distract you.”

“We shouldn’t, we ought not to, but we will. It won’t be the last time. He won’t say no to me. I was thinking about it on the way home, and that’s the thing I like most about it, having power over someone. That’s the intoxicating thing.”

“Hollowness: that I understand. I’m starting to believe that there isn’t anything you can do to fix it. That’s what I’ve taken from the therapy sessions: the holes in your life are permanent. You have to grow around them, like tree roots around concrete; you mould yourself through the gaps.”

“And now I find myself behaving exactly like she used to: polishing off the half bottle of red left over from dinner last night and snooping around on his computer. It’s easier to understand her behaviour when you feel like I feel right now. There’s nothing so painful, so corrosive, as suspicion.”

“You’re like one of those dogs, the unwanted ones that have been mistreated all their lives. You can kick them and kick them, but they’ll still come back to you, cringing and wagging their tails. Begging. Hoping that this time it’ll be different, that this time they’ll do something right and you’ll love them.”

Ellice has been blogging at Paper Riot since 2013. She is a librarian, book lover and Southern belle who loves sweet tea, animals, football and books with kissy scenes in them. You will mostly find her fangirling over contemporary books.

2 Responses to “Mini Review: The Girl on the Train”

  1. Leah says:

    All the hugs and kisses for this! You echoed my feelings exactly – I went into this one expecting the world (two coworkers basically share my taste in books and they both said this was a one-sitting, unputdownable read) and I think that was the book’s downfall. When my world wasn’t rock from page 1, I was disappointed and that disappointment carried throughout the entire novel. There were some scenes that I truly enjoyed and kept my attention from wavering, but for the most part, this one just didn’t do it for me.

    Please don’t write off psychological thrillers after a few duds! It’s one of my all-time favorite genres and there truly are some absolutely fantastic stories out there!

  2. Lara says:

    I’m a huge fan of psychological thrillers and I loved Gone Girl! It’s a shame these ones didn’t work out for you. I’ve heard a lot about The Girl on the Train, but I’ve been a little wary because of the hype, so it’s good to see someone who has different thoughts on it. I think I will still be reading this though because I’m sure that like you, even if I don’t enjoy it, I will still be able to find elements of it that I like.

    Great review!

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