Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train Every day Rachel rides the commuter train from the suburbs into the city. Along the way the passes the street where she used to live with her now ex-husband Tom. Anna now lives in that house with Tom. As she rides the train Rachel can't help but gaze at her old street. If she is not staring at her old house, she is staring at another a few doors down where the cute couple she has nicknamed Jess and Jason live. Rachel likes to imagine their idyllic life.

I have this system for tracking books that come into my home. Newly acquired books are added to my handwritten "Books as of Yet Unread" list and are placed in the unread pile, which is literally a pile of books in one corner of my living room. After I have read a book one of two things happens: either I add it to my electronic catalog and find a home for the book on one of my bookshelves or it goes into the donation pile and eventually out of my home. For the first half, maybe even two-thirds of The Girl on the Train I thought it was definitely going into the donation pile.

The Girl on the Train is told from the points of view of three women: Rachel, Anna, and Megan (the actual name of the woman Rachel has nicknamed Jess). Rachel is the primary storyteller and she is an alcoholic. I'll give Paula Hawkins this much - she made Rachel's alcoholism feel real. She didn't pretty it up or minimize it. Rachel is a sloppy mess who does stupid, gross alcoholic things that hurt her and other people. It was annoying and hard to read, but again, it did read as real. Further because Rachel is an alcoholic who regularly gets blackout drunk, nothing she says or thinks can be totally trusted.

Anna and Megan are perhaps slightly more trustworthy than Rachel, but only just barely. Before becoming Tom's wife Anna was his mistress, and she admits to never feeling the slightest bit bad about that. Rachel was never real to her and the thrill of being part of a secret affair was just too much fun. Now Anna is living in the house where Rachel used to live and she finds being wife isn't always as much fun as being a mistress. She's smug, bored (and boring), and paranoid. Admittedly her paranoia is not entirely undeserved. Rachel just won't stop coming around.

Of the three women Megan is the one we hear the least from. She is also the one with the most secrets - one of which might be the end of her. She's troubled and it is awhile before we start to learn the reasons why.

I found it hard to relate to or care much any of the three narrators. They were all annoying in their own way. I don't have to like a character to enjoy a book but there must be something compelling about them, something interesting. For much of the book that was sorely lacking.

The story didn't get interesting until the last third. Something bad happens and Rachel thinks she knows something. She goes to the police. The problem is she isn't sure what she knows. No one takes her seriously. And why should they? With her multiple alcoholic blackouts she can't trust her memory and no one else can either.

I'm still not sure if I'm going to keep this book. The ending was good but I can't imagine spending any more time with any of these characters again, although I might watch the movie.

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