Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

This one has gotten a lot of hype, and seems to enthrall, enrage, bore, delight, hold captive (choose all that apply) readers across a broad spectrum.  While it's been compared to GONE GIRL, the absence of GG's pages and pages of gratuitous sex made this one a better read for me.   Here's how the publisher describes it:
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?
Author Paula Hawkins has three different narrators relate the story.  The first, Rachel, is an alcoholic, subject to black-outs, depression, and on the verge of total melt-down.  Not up there at the top of the reliable witness category.  The second is the "victim?" Megan, who is missing  (sound familiar?)  The third, Amy,  is a neighbor of the missing girl, who also happens to be married to Rachel's ex-husband.   Not only are relationships a bit confusing at first, but as the story progresses, the reader becomes aware that none of these storytellers is reliable.   Who to believe?  What really happened?

While this device of multiple and/or unreliable narrators can add a great deal of suspense to a mystery, it has to be handled carefully to avoid descending into a farce.   Hawkins manages all the twists and turns admirably to give us a true page turner.  We don't even have to like these characters to have a ripping good read. I was really glad that I had not read any of the reviews before I picked this up in the library.  It's a book that deserves to be read with as little known up front as possible.

Title: The Girl on the Train
Author: Paula Hawkins
Publisher: Riverhead Press, 2015, 336 pages

Genre: Mystery - psychological thriller
Subject: Missing persons
Setting: London and environs
Source: Public library
Why did I read this book now?  It jumped off the shelf yelling "pick me!"


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