Book Review: The Girl On The Train By Paula Hawkins

The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins - Header

Over the past 12 months there has only been one answer if you’ve talked to anybody about psychological thrillers. It didn’t matter whether it was in literacy or cinematic form, want a story that will worm inside your mind and twist and warp and freak you out? Then Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn was the answer. I haven’t read the book, but I have seen the film (which is why I now won’t read the book as I know the twists), so when I wanted a psychological thriller to read myself, I started at Gone Girl and looked at the novels people recommended afterwards. The name coming up time and again was The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins.

I knew nothing about it as I started reading, I purely went on the strength of a few recommendations and Google’s own comparison of: Rear Window meets Gone Girl – not that, that means anything as I’ve never heard of Rear Window! However, within the opening few pages, reading the first few lines and the prologue, my heart sank. I was expecting a dark, teasing story, keeping it’s secrets hidden until the end and suddenly, light was being thrown upon it. It felt as though the book wanted desperately to release the tension I wanted it to hold on to and I wondered, whether, by not skipping to the actual first page, I’d naively, spoiled the entire book.

Breaking Tension - The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkin

I didn’t need to really worry though because as the story started to unfold, the hinted contents never quite materialised. The story did ark away from the linear idea I was expecting but not in a direction that felt like it had ultimately been spoiled. That said, where it actually goes though I didn’t really enjoy because, ultimately, the story is just a bit too loose and winding to really buy into.

I think I feel this way because the story feels implausible. There were just too many situations where there were too many coincidences or impossible timings to ever really feel believable. Life just doesn’t untangle and meander as it is supposed to play out in The Girl On the Train. Don’t get me wrong, it feels like real life, smells, temperatures, noise, the day to day passing of life all there and tangible but its plot just felt manufactured. The story just a bit too invented as needed and a bit too far away from how the day to day routine of normal life would actually play out.

It doesn’t help as well that I found the book extremely slow and ponderous. It seems to goes round and round in a lot of circles, things feeling like they are just happening over and over and over again without ever actually driving the story forward. There is a huge chunk in the middle of the book where it honestly felt like it wasn’t going anywhere. That it had got stuck, retelling the same events through differing eyes over and over. In fact, it actually reaches a point where the story started to become boring as a result.

Paula Hawkins - The Girl On The Train

This chopping and changing of character to view the same event from different angles also drove me away from the book. While you can clearly see each character as an independent person, their portrait, personality and voice all clear in my mind, it completely destroyed any chance of being able to draw a timeline in my mind. I very quickly lost all sense of how the events fit together and what came before or after what. I was always clear on the general direction of the story but the finer points became a combined mess that lacked the clarity and weight to add the depth to the story I really wanted.

Ultimately, Paula Hawkins has created a story that is just too farfetched to be believable and while it twists and turns and keeps you guessing it never feels anything more than fiction and worse, gives up its ending far too quickly. It’s not a bad book, I can see why people recommend it, but I just could never get past the fact that it was so implausible that it was obviously somebody’s imagination and not a sinister and dark recalling of an event that could actually be happening right now.

Posted on by 5WC in Book First Edition

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