Saturday, 27 May 2017

Book Review: Girl On a Train

 


Initially I wanted to read this book out of curiosity; there was a ridiculous amount of hype surrounding it and it seemed to be top of the book charts for months. For a new author, Paula Hawkins reached the writers dream pretty quickly; sadly I found the writing style to be incredibly irritating. The use of three narrators worked well, I actually do like seeing a situation from different perspectives but I wasn't keen on the fact that every narrator was female and completely unreliable. As a reader we're introduced to Rachel, an alcoholic; Megan, a cheat and Anna, a liar. As a woman myself, I found myself hating that each of these women were solely dependant on the male characters, who were portrayed as strong and capable. The male and female dynamics really focussed on the males being the dominant and the females being submissive. Only one female seemed to have her head screwed on, which was Rachel's landlady and friend, Cathy; but even she was reliant on her boyfriend so there was no real strong female lead, which disappointed me from a female author. I feel like I was expecting more from the book, given all of the hype surrounding it. 

All of the characters were majorly unlikeable; probably the most bearable was Rachel as although her reasoning was a little off, she did at least try to do the right things, even if she went about it in the wrong way. However, I feel like her narrative was fairly unbelieveable; yes, I understand that using an unreliable narrator is a fantastic literary technique (when used correctly) but with Rachel it was a bit strange that at the start of the novel she apparently couldn't remember anything when she had been drinking to suddenly towards the end of the novel she could remember everything. Actually, Rachel's drinking is the key to most of the novel; whenever she drinks she's a different person. She's definitely braver when drunk, but ultimately her mental health isn't the best due to her alcoholism. For much of the novel I was frustrated due to her lack of realisation for what drinking cost her; a husband, a job. Alcohol makes her a liar too, pretending to her landlady that she goes to work everyday by getting the same two trains in and out of London that she did when she had a job and a routine.

From the train window she watches her ex-husband with his new wife and family, as well as a couple whose lives she imagines inside her head in their houses. On the surface, Rachel has massive mental health issues, spurred on from her drinking. When you realise that the house she watches was once he own home, you can understand why she feels so pained but strangely obsessed with peering in. She's clearly still grieving for her old life. There are several twists and turns in this novel, but overall it's very slow to gather any momentum. I was actually relieved when the novel started to fully shape, although it was fairly predictable throughout. It was fairly interesting to view the novel from Megan's perspective due to her involvement within the murder; a serial adulteress with no inhibitions about lying and cheating to her own husband so she's equally as unreliable as Rachel is to the reader. Even worse, Megan lives a few doors down from Anna, the third narrator. Married to Rachel's ex-husband, she is also a liar and a cheat as she made her way from mistress to wife and mother. Most of the novel focusses on the feud between Rachel and Anna over their shared love of Tom.

The three person narrative was carried out smoothly and worked well, but the three characters were so similar at times that they almost morphed into the same person, making it difficult to distinguish between them. At times the phrases and descriptions of the same event were almost identical; I found the characters irritating, making the book difficult to read. I feel like Hawkins used the idea of the broken woman to keep interest open in the novel; I enjoyed it more towards the end of the book, once it had picked up the pace a little and I was actually surprised in the end. I thought it was predictable but I was very wrong in terms of who actually committed the murder; early on, I assumed I knew the whole story straightaway and I was pleasantly surprised to have been wrong. If you plan to read this book, try and read it with an open mind, rather than following a 'whodunnit' set of theories. My main issue with the book is how women and men are represented, they're shallow and lacking any real substance. Likewise, alcoholism is a genuine issue mentioned regularly throughout the book, but it's also skimmed over in a sense; Rachel just suddenly ceases drinking, which in reality, seems completely unbelievable for someone so reliant on it. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it, but I didn't love it. It didn't live up to the hype or my expectations, which was a shame.


 

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