Review by: Jordan Wenk
For ten weeks the psychological thriller, “The Girl On the Train” has been atop the New York Times best sellers in fiction. What might the reason be? There must be something about all the hype, and after reading the book I believe I see why this book has been so popular for the past two months.
For starters, the novel is written very well and by someone who was very experienced in writing; Paula Hawkins worked as a journalist for many years before starting this novel.
It also helps that the book is absolutely magnetic in it’s ability to keep you hooked, a complete thriller. It is told through three different perspectives chronologically, in a style similar to reading a diary. The book tells the story of an alcoholic, Rachel, who loses her job, but still rides the train every day to fool her family and friends into thinking she hasn’t lost her job. Every day she becomes accustomed to the homes the train passes and the people inside. One house in particular, she has invented a back story for and nicknames them “Jess and Jason” but one day sees something that is completely out of the norm and soon after, Jess goes missing.
For those who love the aspect of an unreliable narrator, this book is great for you. Rachel is an alcoholic, and she is not exactly a reliable witness, will the police believe any of her stories? Can SHE believe her stories? She does not even know these people, how can she possibly speak competently about the incident? That aspect of the book is very fascinating and keeps you constantly guessing.
The other two perspectives of the book are from the missing woman, nicknamed “Jess,” and the woman who stole Rachel’s (ex)husband, “Anna.”
At times it seems that the switch in narration is just annoying, and I grew to detest the character of Anna in many ways. But food for thought is that these characters are not superfluous or unbelievable. I think what makes this book great is the fact that it is rooted in realism completely.
Another fantastic aspect of this book that is rooted in realism is that it shows an honest representation of alcoholism that isn’t washed an polished to make the reader comfortable. It treats alcoholism like a real problem, and doesn’t hide anything. It can help people take a look into the mind of an alcoholic to hopefully provide insight for those that need it.
One other thing that I believe makes this book popular is all of the hype that was around another fantastic thriller novel, “Gone Girl,” after the novel was very successful the movie was also an Oscar nominated phenomenon.
These things all incorporated create a thrilling psychological novel. The book is a quick read, as a working college student I had time to read it in two sittings. But the page-turning thrill may have helped with that.
My only gripe with this book is simple, it was written very well but it seemed almost too simple. What made “Gone Girl” one of my new favorites was the prose it was written in, tip-toeing poetic at times. In the beginning of “the Girl on the Train,” there are two beautifully written excerpts on the first two pages and I wish the book was written more like those sections instead of the simple, diary-entry-style writing.
Overall I give the book a four out of five, and I really hope they decide to do a movie soon.