Monday, 2 January 2017

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Happy New Year everybody! 2016 turned out to be one of the best reading months I'd had in a long time, and I'm so proud of myself. Every year I feel I get closer to the literature I read as I discover more favourites and burrow deeper into my niche. This year has definitely been the year for new favourites - I read Moby Dick which became one of my top books of the year, found Donna Tartt and Bret Easton Ellis and began my exploration with existentialist writers.

Before the end of the year, I finished the last book in the Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo, Ruin and Rising. It was a wonderful end to the series and I put a very short review up for that on Goodreads. I still didn't feel like going back to The Dice Man for some reason, and I wanted a book I could curl up with a really immerse myself into. Those, for me, are always mysteries, and I dug through my pile of unread books and decided to get on with The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, the novel people have been absolutely raving about.


Where I stand with thrillers is strange - I find they can be either completely enthralling and worthy of five stars, or they can be mediocre, predictable, and not really anything astounding. Unfortunately, I found the latter to be the case for me when I came to read Paula Hawkins' novel. I head to crime to be blown out of my seat, because that's what the genre should be, right? I find that plain old murder just doesn't cut it anymore, and when boiled down to it, that's just all that The Girl on the Train was.

The premise is that Rachel, an alcoholic, takes the train to London every day and passes a set of houses. One house in particular she watches, because it is owned by what she deems 'the perfect couple' and happens to be just a few doors down from the house she used to own with her ex-husband, how occupied by he and his new wife. Then, one day, she sees something from the train that shatters her whole view of the couple and gets her roped into an investigation she can't help but get pulled further in to.

Although the characterisation was messy for some characters, I liked the writing of Rachel. The portrayal of her illness was very real and there was no glossing over it which I think really added an interest to her role in the investigation. Things that she said were questioned because of her label as an 'alcoholic' and she often doubted the truth of her own memory. Whilst this really worked for me, the other characters didn't. Tom, her ex-husband, seemed to change personality just to fit with the ending of the story and I didn't think it made much sense. The other characters were simply archetypal, although I admit they worked well considering the nature of the story.

There isn't much to say about the writing because it wasn't anything ground breaking. I think this is why I gave the book such a low rating overall - I found it seriously underwhelming. Murder, adultery, and jealously is seen in so many crime novels that on it's own, just didn't give for a satisfyingly shocking conclusion. Whilst the atmosphere and the sense of mystery were conjured well by Hawkins, especially with the use of the setting, there was too much predictability and too much sameness for me to really come away from this thinking it was something amazing. It's why I love Larsson's Millenium Trilogy, because they are full of so many twists and turns that I always come out of them feeling shocked.

Though I'm disappointed with this due to the nature of the hype around it, I know many people who fell in love with this novel, so I wouldn't be put off from reading it. It did well to fill a small gap though whilst I welcomed in the New Year, and sometimes it's good to read books that everybody's talking about just so you can weigh in on the discussions. I hope you have a great 2017, and it's filled with as many books you could wish for. I only hope I can live up to the amount of reading I did for the past twelve months. Part of me is skeptical. 

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