Review: The Girl on the Train

Earlier this year I actively looked for psychological thrillers because I just can’t get enough of them. In my search for a top 10 best psychological thrillers or something I found Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train. New York Times bestseller, awesome customer reviews, I could give it a try. It so happened that my sister had it so I borrowed it from her. Since it was the French translation, I won’t talk about style.the-girl-on-the-train-by-paula-hawkins-1

I was… disappointed. I wasn’t going to review it for that reason (I also felt like the NYT review said it all), but after I had time to reflect on it, I found some good points to talk about. Maybe I expected too much, it being a bestseller and all. But it’s a debut novel after all. I have better hopes for Paula Hawkins next novel, Into the Water, to be released on May 2nd, 2017. I probably won’t buy it but I may borrow it from the library if they order it.

The concept was really what made me interested. Rachel sits in the train and imagines the lives of a couple living by the railway, then decides to get involved when the woman disappears. Great! It’s not a high concept, but it’s an original one anyway and one that caught my attention. Doesn’t everybody like to imagine the lives of people they meet? I know I do! So at first sight, I identified with the main character. Good job there.

I still found her lovable in the first chapters. She’s broken alright, she’s an alcoholic with a nasty habit of blacking out, but it’s nothing I can’t feel compassionate about; I’ve had issues of my own. I guess it might have been “wanted” that she gets on your nerves at length. People do tend to lose patience when others don’t even try to help themselves. But I still could have forgiven her, if she hadn’t been so… stupid. I know that’s a harsh thing to say. There are plenty of people like her out there, but my personality type make it so that I can never really understand them.
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She kept on doing things that made me want to slap the back of her head saying sarcastically: “What a great idea, girl! That always ends well!” Not to mention it was obvious to me who the killer was before she let out that huge clue about their identity, and it should have been twice more obvious to her. Toward the end, I was so annoyed with her I’d think: “Too bad, it’s a jungle out there and you’re not smart enough to survive”.

I was equally displeased with most of the rest of the cast. Two exceptions: the victim, but that’s too bad because she died, and the killer, though I still I wanted them dead. It’s a shame because all of the characters are well constructed. The problem is that their faults are too emphasized and not much is there to make you sympathize with them. So I ended up hating everyone and fantasizing about an ending where everybody just dies.

On a better note, I found the plot quite interesting; few boring bits. Unpolished maybe. There was too much pointless red herring to my taste and I felt like the main character was dumb only for the purpose of the plot, but hey! It wasn’t completely unrealistic either. There was too much emphasis on the “surprise” of discovering the killer’s identity, which unfortunately was too obvious too soon for me. It all just needs to be refined. And the most important part is that upon the whole, I was still somewhat entertained.

Rating: 5/10 This is the lowest rating I’ll give here; it means I wouldn’t particularly recommend it, but I found it at least half-decent. Any book I read that I wouldn’t rate 5 or higher won’t be reviewed at all. The reason is explained in my post Confession of a recovering book snob.

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20 thoughts on “Review: The Girl on the Train

  1. Heh, great review, although I don’t agree with all of it, I see where you’re coming from, Definitely true that the main character was frustrating, I felt that her daft decisions were very much caused by her alcoholism though – she couldn’t get the distance on a situation to figure it out, so she made impulsive, emotional decisions – that fits with what I know of addicts.
    Shame you guessed the murderer (I didn’t, I rarely do) that always spoils a mystery novel, sounds like you need something a bit trickier to play with.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t know many alcoholics, but I think you’re right. It could have affected her judgement as well as her self-confidence; like I said, well constructed characters. Up to here I totally agree and I could have related. But then it goes on and on and it feels like she always takes the worst possible decisions (culminating in her confronting the killer)… That became too much. That and the lack of sympathy triggering elements made me unable to root for her. My problem is more with the way the story was written then with what actually happens. I’m not sure if that’s clear.

      I often spot the killer before I’m supposed to. I enjoy it most of the time; when there was no way for me to find them because the narrator concealed clues from me, I feel betrayed. When the plot is good enough, no “spoiler” can really spoil it. Like it really doesn’t matter how it ends or who the killer is, what I enjoy is “how the story gets from point A to point B”. I just have a problem when characters persist on not seeing what’s just in front of their nose while knowing full well it actually happens a lot in real life. I’m curious though, when did you find out who the killer was? After Rachel’s visit to the shrink?

      Thank you for you comment!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hmm, I don’t remember when I figured it out, but it was definitely very late. I totally agree with you about enjoying the journey of the story and who-actually-dunnit is less important.
        And don’t worry, it was clear what you were saying, if you find the characters’ actions unbelievable (and you’re not the first one I’ve heard say that) then there’s a problem with the writing.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey Ida, I’ve actually never read the book but jumped at the movie thinking it was another (comparable) iteration of Gone Girl (one of my favourite thrillers by far). But dear oh dear, was I disappointed! My husband nearly fell asleep in his cushy couch in the cinema. As you say, the faults of the characters are unnecessarily amplified and it wouldn’t have been too difficult to imagine the ending. I’d rate the movie a 5/10 too… It was just…meh.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve seen the book compared to Gone Girl often, so I figured I wouldn’t like that one either, but it seems I might be wrong since you enjoyed one and not the other. I might give it as try.
      Thanks a lot for sharing your opinion!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Actually I havent’t read it but your ‘re not the only one who has been disappointed by it. I also read a review on Lieze Neven and her comments run along the same thread. But like you said it’s a debut novel and with all the buzz around it maybe expectations were a tad bit too high. Maybe I’ll give it a try if I can finish the ones I already have on my Kindle:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Indeed, after I read the book I found many reviews of people who felt the same or worse about it (I don’t know if you’ve read the NYT review, but it’s harsh). I’m still glad I read it.

      However, I am hopeful; I think Paula Hawkins as a lot of potential and I hope she’ll refine her craft so she’ll eventually create a masterpiece of a psychological thriller. 🙂 I’ll make sure to check NYT reviews of her next books before I read them though.

      Thanks for passing by!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great review! I also posted a review of this book on my blog. I don’t have many posts yet as I have just started few days back so I think you can see it at once if you’d like to visit. We have similar takes on this, maybe we really just expected too much. ✌

    Liked by 1 person

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