Everyone has been raving about this book since it came out. They claimed that if you loved Gone Girl, The Girl On The Train was a sure pleaser, too. For this reason, it was the first book on by ‘To buy’ list for my holiday. Before I had even opened it, I sent my friend a picture of the pool with the book in view, and they told me it had them hooked, so naturally I could not wait to read it.
Even when I began reading it, it didn’t disappoint. I liked the quotations before the actual story began, excited to see what relevance they may have further on. In fact, even a few chapters into the book I still had high hopes-it wasn’t immediately captivating, but I was willing for it to grab me in the way that I had enjoyed the book it had been compared to so much.
I felt what I’m sure readers were supposed to feel about each of the three women whose perspectives the story is written in: pity for Rachel, intrigue towards Megan and hostility towards Anna. However, the deeper I ventured into the book the more I was disappointed.
Firstly, yes, I could understand Rachel’s embarrassment at the loss of her job and her reasons for not telling her flatmate but, in reality, why would she continue (and how could she afford) to continue to journey into London every day for no reason? I also thought that the stories of her ‘erratic’ behaviour towards Anna and Tom in the past were a little half-hearted- they would have been great if they had been developed properly, but they never seemed to arrive at anything. The character of Rachel’s mum also seemed a little underdeveloped- I could see how it was necessary for her to feature, but I feel that she could have been executed more effectively. Anna’s character was, more than anything, frustrating. This may have been on purpose, but it was infuriating to have to be put in the shoes of somehow who could be so blinded by their own arrogance. Even in the very last chapters, when one would expect her to begin to show some compassion towards Rachel, she remained as hostile and unkind as ever.
Unfortunately it wasn’t just the characters that I found frustrating- the narrative itself was also annoyingly predictable. Hawkins did attempt red herrings and twists but, personally, I think these were poorly executed and I could always see them coming. Even as the truth is uncovered before the end, I did not feel that it was the ‘big reveal’ that it seemed it was supposed to be and the only reason that I continued to turn the pages so quickly was because I was interested in seeing how it was revealed and what the final result would be.
I found the writing style also irritated me, too. However, I do recognise that this may be a personal choice. I can appreciate the attempts at being witty, but I just felt that it did not work, and occasionally resulted in the misuse of punctuation to achieve a certain tone, which is one of my personal bugbears. It also seemed that Hawkins wished to appear eloquent, through the use of low frequency vocabulary, but this just didn’t fit comfortably with the characters in terms of their class or level of intelligence and, in my opinion, it added nothing to the characters nor the narrative.
However, in spite of the fact that the writing style and the characters did not appeal to me, I was impressed by the concept of part of the narrative: that when you see the same sight or people on such a regular basis, they become so familiar that your brain can be tricked into thinking you know them. As someone who has commuted into central London on the tube every weekday for the past year, I can understand how your mind makes up little stories about the faces you see everyday and their reason for making their journey at the same time as you everyday.
I don’t think I could recommend this book, simply because I was so disappointed by it after how it was recommended to me. I wanted to assure myself that I wasn’t simply being a harsh critic so I gave it to my boyfriend, without telling him my views on it, and he told me he felt exactly the same. In fact, I was considering breaking my own rule of never giving up on a book, but I desperately wanted to make myself enjoy it and I didn’t want to miss out on something that everyone else was raving about. Perhaps I misunderstood the book, or missed a vital concept in it that would have meant I enjoyed it, but I just didn’t. I would be incredibly interested in hearing your point of view, because everyone else I have spoken to can’t understand why I disliked it so much!