BOOK REVIEW | The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

BOOK REVIEW | The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Review by Mark David Major

(Book blurb begins) Every day the same… Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life — as she sees it — is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost. Until today… And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon, she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good? (Book blurb ends)

When I began reading The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, my first reaction was ‘Oh no, not another first person narrative?!?!’ I have previously expressed some frustration about the recent flood of first person narratives in contemporary literature. On one hand, such egocentric perspectives seem entirely appropriate to our culture and time. On the other hand, it is all-too-easy for some writers to manipulate readers with contrived plot twists using first person narratives. By nature, such egocentric perspectives are relative and unreliable (for example, 14-year old Katniss’ perspective of Panem in The Hunger Games). However, given this misgiving, it is to Paula Hawkins’ inestimable credit as a writer that her debut novel quickly pulled me into its world of suburbia crime, betrayal, and intrigue. Hawkins’ crafts a well-paced plot composed of interesting and believable characters in compelling situations, especially the female characters. The male characters come off as somewhat ‘all men are potential rapists’ one-dimensional stereotypes. One could argue this is entirely in keeping with the feminine perspective of the story but it is a little too black and white for the real world. It leaves one with the stereotypical conclusion that some women have really, really bad taste in men. It might be an interesting exercise if Hawkins wrote a companion novel (The Man in the House?) telling the same story from the perspective of the male characters. I, for one, would be intrigued to hear Scott Hipwell’s perspective about the characters and events in this novel. Mark’s Grade:

The Girl on the Train
by Paula Hawkins

Paperback, English, 416 pages
Riverhead Books; Mti Rep edition (August 23, 2016)
ISBN-10:0735212163
ISBN-13: 978-0735212169

You can purchase The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins on Amazon here.


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