Today I’m not even going to bother with a preamble. There will be no smooth segue into our topic of interest. No this post will be jarring. And disconcerting. And hopefully will be an absolute pain to read. And still it will have more narrative cohesion than The Girl on the Train.
This mess of a book debuted at number one on the NY times best seller list and stayed there for thirteen weeks. And because of that I hate all of you. Maybe I should be nicer. After all someday I will have a debut novel that someone will hate and eviscerate on the internet. But I’m not going to be because reading this book actually gave me a headache.
The fascination of the American audiences with the unreliable narrator is a trend that is going to get worse before it goes away. And it’s hard to stomach the praise being heaped on this supposedly innovative literary technique by people who somehow made it out of high school without ever having read Beowulf. Ms. Hawking’s uses this technique liberally by employing not one but three POV characters of an untrustworthy nature. That coupled with the fact you can’t go more than a page or two without jumping forward or backwards in time makes sure that this novel never establishes a rhythm. And I honestly can’t tell if this is done on purpose to hide a hum-drum plot or if it really is just bad writing.
There are books that are hard to get started. I understand that. Sometimes it’s necessary to tough out the first fifty or one hundred pages to get to the good stuff but I was twenty pages from the end before I began to turn those pages with any velocity or ferocity. It took me a full month to finish this thriller and only then because I forced myself to in preparation for this post. Contrast that with the two days it took me to finish Gone Girl the book that most reviews compare this novel to and you can see my point.
I could go on and on about the problems with The Girl on the Train. The blatantly obvious red herrings. That the main mystery isn’t actually all that mysterious at all. That the connections between the characters seem forced. That its portrayal of women, while supposedly trying to be realistic and empowering, seems ridiculously misogynistic. That despite the rampant misogyny the male characters in the cast boil down to nothing more angry lying penises. I could go on. But I won’t.
I honestly never want to think about this book again. So Paula Hawking’s The Girl on The Train is In Stores Now. If I were you I’d rent a movie.