Girl On the Train
Author: Paula Hawkins
Publisher: Riverhead books
Hardcover Edition: 323 pages
Source: Borrowed Copy
This quote comes to mind as I think about this book. “Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” I believe it is from Scottish poetry, Sir Walter Scott. This novel Girl On the Train, filled with what these days are called unreliable narrators, is a tangled story of a group of people, whose search for life is filled with lies. It is also described as a thriller. This reader did turn the pages in hopes of knowing who had perpetrated evil against one of their number, a young woman named Megan. But it is Rachel who is at the center of the story as a young woman who has known heartache and tried to cure it with wine and strong spirits. This tale of liars has been a best seller since its debut 24 weeks ago.
So if you want to read a modern thriller, a story of young people stumbling as they try to find their way into adult life, and don’t we all stumble, this may be the book for you. You will join legions of readers. Many readers and reviewers call this book fun. An element of the read is the search for which male character will be a hero, save the day so to speak. Something of a fun activity, perhaps? The reader will likely be surprised.
The author scrambles the timing of scenes. This adds uncertainty and ups the reading game. Or does it simple add to the tangled web? Pay attention, my teen granddaughter told me, and she was right, as usual. Her reading and interest in this book provides evidence that this book is gripping for readers of all ages.
The story may have something to say about the plight of young women today, in terms of their choices, and how society views them, as opposed to their male counterparts, or their older sisters. To many of us, young or old, life on the other side of the tracks or down the street looks so much more inviting than our own. What are the expectations of young women today? How much do they continue to bear responsibility for happiness of husband, lover, children, and friend. Is it disproportionate? Is the pain and trauma they sometimes endure deserved, of their own making, or exacerbated by societal pressures? Think of the stories of runaways, dead children, selling drugs from the kitchen etc. Think of the number of women in our prisons. It may be a short step from mindless riding of the train as a pretense for going to work to prison life a la Orange Is the New Black.
The opening of the book is particularly gripping and beautifully written. The author does well with multiple viewpoints, suspense, and structure. There is much to be admired in her presentation of the story. However, this reader felt so sad for the characters that I simply am not able to call the book fun in any sense. Admirable, gripping, well-done. Yes. Still, a sad-sack female protagonist struggling against tall odds takes the fun out of the read for me. But obviously many readers and reviewers disagree. That’s the nature of reading choices. They are personal.