I fell into what should have been a very foreseeable and plainly laid trap. A trap buttressed, like many traps, by unrealistic expectations. My pitfall? I thought Paula Hawkins’ “The Girl on the Train” was going to be Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl.” Not literally…as in I did not mistake the two novels for one another, but I expected “The Girl on the Train” to be very similar to “Gone Girl,” a book I had read last year in about three sittings.
Needless to say, “The Girl on the Train” was not “Gone Girl.”
I recognize this as an absurd expectation, but needless to say, I still felt duped. From what I understood, both books:
1. Featured female protagonists in the midst of a murder mystery.
2. Were made into movies.
3. Had similar covers.
4. Contained the word “girl” in the title.
I’m not sure if judging a book by its cover/title is a rhetorical or literary fallacy, but it sure explains why I never read a classic like “Moby Dick” because
1. Cover sucks.
2. It has word “dick” in the title.
But it does explain why I’ve started “Infinite Jest” for the 1,000th time because:
1. The title makes it seem like it will bring mad lolz.
2. Will be endlessly enjoyable due to infinite pages it has #litjokes.
I’ll admit that “Girl on the Train” was a page turner, though. But not in a good way. When I got hit with another drunken self-pity-filled Rachel chapter for the umpteenth time halfway through the book, I knew that an arduous road was lying ahead of me. But my momma didn’t raise no quitter, so I went into hyper-drive and hate-read the shit out of that book. I don’t know if the hate-read was a vindictive measure that satisfied my urge to rip out each page after finishing it or a defense mechanism to end the suffering… but I finished.
Quickly, as usual.
My primary qualm with the structure of the “GOTT” is that unlike Rachel’s train ride to her fake job everyday, the narrative structure follows a circuitous path that not only makes it difficult to reconcile events occurring years apart in subsequent chapters, but does so fruitlessly. The back and forth structure quenches the readers desire to understand the events that transpired between Rachel, Anna and Tom, but after hundreds of pages, Rachel’s sudden re-memory of her blacked out haze comes as a deus ex machina and not the culmination any investigative work or character development.
Like any good mystery, red herrings abound such as Dr. Abdic and Andy, but they too provide no further clarity nor evidence to Rachel.
*side note: I still don’t understand how the Paula Hawkins could have written in Andy as a creepy ginger who Rachel feels she “has to get away from” but not have him be the killer. It just seems unrealistic.*
The story does reach a bloody and satisfying climax once Rachel and Anna both come to understand that Tom is an utter sociopath, but aside from the brief moment of enlightenment that comes once his true colors are learned, there is no explanation for how Tom became so deranged. There is nothing wrong with leaving loose ends, but Tom is left as just another one-dimensional characterized psycho. We’re left wondering why he acted the way he did, what his past was, about his relationship with his parents, and what he was actually doing when he was out with his “army friends.”
Honestly, like many other people, I read “The Girl on the Train” once I saw the movie was coming out. Plus, I wanted to impress a close group of girlfriends that had recently read it as part of their book club. The book was enjoyable, but yet again, I cruelly learned to keep my expectations low to avoid unnecessary disappointment.
From now on every book I read will be judged in comparison to “The Shore” by Snooki. And no, I haven’t read “The Shore,” I’m just assuming it’s bad. And yes, I just judged a book by it’s cover again.
I’d give “The Girl on a Train” a solid 3.5/5, would not recommend to a friend. This is also precisely why I will not be watching the movie, because no movie (except for “Fight Club”) is as good as its book counterpart. I already spent three nights reading about Rachel feeling confused and sorry for herself. I’ll pass on two more hours of Emily Blunt doing the same.