Friday, 13 November 2015

'The Girl on the Train', by Paula Hawkins

Title: The Girl on the Train
Author(s): Paula Hawkins
Release Date: 15th January 2015
Publisher: Transworld (Random House)
Genre: Thriller
Source: Bought

A debut psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people’s lives.

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. 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.

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 offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

Compulsively readable, The Girl on the Train is an emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller and an electrifying debut.


Wow. Wow. Wow.

This is one of those cases where I will be struggling to put together a coherent review.

Not only because this is a brilliant book but also due to the fact that I believe you should go into the reading of it as blind as possible and I don't want to give too much away.

This story is told through three different points of view: Rachel, our protagonist, and two other women (which I won't be getting into much detail of who they are, since, you know, spoilers). Two of them are concurrent as for timeline (at the beginning of each 'chapter' there is an indication of what day it is to help you keep up), while the third begins about one year earlier. As you read the book you should take this into account, because every detail matters and that look into the past is filled with clues and a privileged perspective into the characters at play.

I tend to drift away from books with multiple perspectives because it's not something easy to pull off, and the first thing you need to make sure of as an author is that all the voices are different. In this case, you can see a lot of similarities between them. This is not a fault with her writing, as I believe it just goes to show that all three women have quite a lot in common, even if at first sight it wouldn't seem so.

One of my favorite things about this book is that all the characters are flawed. Sometimes in novels you see these extremely perfect human beings and you just know that is not at all a realistic setting. Humans are flawed, people are not perfect, and it was a great move having only female voices and still going for that realistic undertone.

Unreliable narrators, when done well, are an absolute treat to read. Rachel is an alcoholic. She drinks to the point of having blackouts and not remembering what she has done for hours at a time. When she does sober up, she tries to put the scarcely available pieces together to figure out what has happened, but you get to a point you don't know if you should trust her judgment since she doesn't really trust it herself. I started doubting everything she said, and I absolutely loved it.

The biggest compliment I can give this book is that it was the most brilliantly executed 'show, don't tell' that I have read in a long time. You get to know all of these people by the little things they do or say, and all of their personalities slowly form in front of your eyes, instead of having paragraphs and paragraphs of exposition just to get that out of the way. As a writer, I will definitely be looking back to it as an inspiration.

I did, however, end up the tiniest bit disappointed because I guessed what the ending was going to be halfway through reading the book, but since I rarely get these things right I just kept waiting for a plot twist that never came. It doesn't hurt at all my rating of it because it still was an amazing read and a great, insightful look into first impressions and what people really are behind closed doors. You think you know someone but you might be sorely, dangerously mistaken.

For fans of Gone Girl and Before I Go to Sleep, this thriller will keep you at the edge of your (possibly train?) seat until the very last page!

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