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.
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.
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.