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A Reading Vocation

"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton

This is where I chronicle my reading life.  I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.



Book 62/100: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins

Around the Year Reading Challenge Item #3: A Winner of the Goodreads Reader's Choice Awards

I probably would have given this book four stars if it hadn't been for all the hype.

It wasn't a bad book; it held my interest all the way through, which is something many three-star books do not do. I found Rachel to be sympathetic despite her flaws, and I liked the narrative choice to tell the story from the perspectives of three women whose lives were only tenuously connected to one another. All three women were fairly well developed, although the male characters remained fairly one-dimensional throughout.

Perhaps what really ruined this book for me were the rampant comparisons to Gone Girl. While both books deal with unreliable narrators and troubled marriages, this one does not have near the psychological dexterity or astuteness of "Gone Girl." It resorts far too often to plot devices that seem merely convenient -- such as Rachel's blackouts, or the vagueness of Megan's interactions with [ the men she is having affairs with, so that the reader is misled into believing she only has one extramarital lover, not two.] Whereas in Gone Girl each piece felt meticulously fitted together, in this book I got the feeling that the author was making it up as she went along, so that when the killer was finally revealed, it didn't feel so much like a revelation as like the author looked at what she had written and decided, "Eh, I guess I can make this work."

The book's small cast of characters makes it feel claustrophobic, which is actually a point in its favor as it heightens the sense that danger is near and inescapable. I'm not quite sure what to make about some of its themes, though. While, on the one hand, I really liked [ that in the end Rachel and Anna had to make peace with one another over the secret they shared, choosing solidarity over competition [, I was a little uncomfortable with the way the book seemed almost obsessed with babies and motherhood, from [ Rachel's descent into alcoholism beginning with her infertility, to her hatred of Anna for having her ex-husband's baby, to Megan's problems all stemming from the death of her child, to her own pregnancy at the crux of the violence perpetrated against her.] While I understand that motherhood or the desire for motherhood can be a compelling motivator for women, this book made it feel like motherhood was the defining feature of being a woman.

In the end, this book is interesting because it's a bit of a small-casted soap opera with a murder thrown in, and not because it has something particularly substantial to say or a twist that you never saw coming. And I can't help but think less of the book because it puts on airs of accomplishing both those things.