This is my first review of a book and I plan to do more on other areas of culture such as films, music and TV. Critically analysing and reviewing what we read, watch and absorb is important and helps us take up an informed, levelled view of the world. However, there are many negative reviews that circulate throughout the press and internet, these do have their place within the media, but in this tiny nebulous of the web I would prefer to put negativity to one side where reviews are concerned. Thus, I have the aim of positively reviewing items that are enjoyable and have the potential to fulfil and enrich one’s life. My first review will fall on the thriller The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.
Hawkins’ novel follows three different women narrators all linked to Blenheim Road in Witney. Rachel is the novel’s protagonist and she has the lion share of narration. However, she also strikes a figure who can justifiably be called hard to like. S
he is alcoholic, depressed and spends weeks pretending to be employed in order to save face with her flatmate. The initial pity one can feel for characters and people in sorry states such as this, has the potential to turn to frustration as we witness Rachel go in and out of addiction and depression’s repetitive cycle.
For those who have not already read it I would recommend it to them, especially those London commuters looking to ensnare their imagination as they peer through train windows on murky
Whilst pretending to be employed we witness our protagonist go on the same train route to and from Euston. On this train route, she passes Blenheim Road, the central point to most of this novel’s drama. From the train window, she can see the house her ex-husband, Tom, and she used to inhabit together. However, this causes her much pain now as Tom lives there with the woman, Anna, that broke apart their marriage. To make matters worse, the new occupants of the house have also just had a child, something particularly upsetting for Rachel. To avoid the eyesore and pain of her previous house, Rachel spends her time spying on a house a few doors down that our troubled protagonist believes to be the perfect couple. Rachel is so involved with this illusory picture of happiness that she even names them Jason and Jess.
Unfortunately, the couple are far from happy. Jess, whose real name is Megan, goes missing one fateful night and our protagonist feels that she is somehow linked to her disappearance. Indeed, both Rachel and Megan were on Blenheim Road the night that Megan went missing. However, Rachel was blackout drunk at the time and remembers little to nothing about the events that unfolded. The protagonist then proceeds to spend the rest of the novel leaving no stone unturned, even when it puts her in danger and in the middle of some morally dubious situations.
Hawkins’ novel is an easy read compared to other books I have read. I don’t mean this disrespectfully by any means. The Girl on the Train runs the risk of being quite complicated due to the nature of the plot and the narrating style that flicks between times and different characters’ perspectives. However, it was brilliantly written and compelling enough to cause me to finish the second half of the novel in one sitting! I have read some reviews that are quite critical of the flawed, unreliable narrator wh
ose personal problems become a chore to read. Indeed, as frustrating as an addictive, depressed person’s mindset and behaviours can be to a reader, it is valuable to have such issues talked about and represented in literature. Moreover, the mistakes Rachel makes are recognisable to almost any adult reader. Having one too many drinks, making that silly drunken phone call late at night and trusting the wrong people are familiar territories for many.
This book is already a national bestseller and for good reason too. For those who have not already read it I would recommend it to them, especially those London commuters looking to ensnare their imagination as they peer through train windows on murky
mornings. My only hope is that the upcoming film does this novel justice.