Saturday, February 7, 2015

Book Review: The Girl on the Train

One of my favorite Alfred Hitchcock movies is "Rear Window" and this book certainly promised to flow in a similar vein. The inside front cover even proclaims "Compulsively readable, The Girl on the Train is an emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller and an electrifying debut." I would agree on all counts, but still prefer "Rear Window" to this alternative tale.

What is different about this novel (as compared to "Rear Window") is that it is told from the perspectives of three different unreliable narrators. The story begins in Rachel's voice as she tells of her daily trek on the trains to and from work, where she looks out at the houses along the track and imagines a background story for the lives of one particular couple whom she has dubbed "Jason" and "Jess." In her eyes, this couple lives the idyllic life she used to live on that very street when she was still married to her ex-husband, Tom. Then, one day she sees something disturbing and feels she must go to the police with the evidence of wrongdoing. She is sucked further and further into the story as the pieces are slowly revealed.

While Rachel is an alcoholic and, therefore, cannot remember every detail with accuracy, Megan is the bored wife, whom Rachel has named "Jess." Her tale slowly evolves with unexpected twists and turns along the way. The final narrator is Anna, Tom's new wife, who views both Megan and Rachel with suspicion and distrust. All three women unravel the story until the truth is finally discovered.

Despite the countless accolades the book received, I didn't exactly enjoy it. I guess my lack of enthusiasm partly stems from the unsavory characters presented. Both husbands are somewhat intimidating and scary. The wives are each broken in their own various ways - one, a miserable alcoholic, one, a mistress-turned-spouse, and one, an adulteress. Thus, I cannot say I really came to like any of the characters involved. Moreover, there is no hint of redemption in the story at all. The characters are just as reprehensible at the end as they were in the beginning and the tragic circumstance led to no greater good.

Still, the book did indeed suck me in and I turned pages as quickly as I could to get to the heart of the story. The writing was clear and flowed well. The characters were distinct enough to tell the difference between them. It was a little bit hard to follow the time line (each chapter started with a date and then a "morning" and "evening" designation), but not enough to detract from following the plot. It won't be billed as one of my favorite reads for 2015, but I'm glad I read it to learn what all the hub-bub was about. People are saying if you liked Gone Girl, you'll like The Girl on the Train. Since I haven't read that story, with an unreliable narrator, I cannot compare the two. It does make me a little less interested in picking up Gone Girl now.

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