I picked up The Girl on the Train the other month because I’d been hearing so much about it and seeing it around everywhere – plus the movie came out – and my curiosity as to what made this book so damn popular was piqued to the point where I just had to find out. I’d also heard, “If you liked Gone Girl then you’ll love this book too!” And I’d read Gone Girl and mostly enjoyed it, so I thought I’d give The Girl on the Train a try.
I cared so little for it that I didn’t even finish it.
Actually that’s kind of a lie – technically I did finish it, but not in the traditional way. I got about a 1/4 of the way through and could not stand the rambling, repetitive, pitiful inner monologues and happenings of the protagonist and the lumbering storyline. So I just skipped to the end to find out what happened. Once I skimmed through the last few chapters and understood what had happened I thought, “That was it? Seriously?” And then I wondered what could have possibly gone on in the middle of the book – all the stuff I had skipped – because I read the ending and understood perfectly what had happened (which wasn’t much to be honest, quite an average plot and average ending for a mystery really), which meant by skipping to the end I hadn’t missed anything.
Which, generally speaking, is not ideally what you want in a book.
The Girl on the Train also failed to make me care about any of the characters. Yes, I certainly felt angered by the murderer, who is of course a disgusting, terrible specimen, and I felt bad for the victims because I know domestic violence, sexism, and misogyny is still a thing – horribly enough. But the book didn’t make me care about these characters in particular, they seemed more like placeholders instead of characters, and bad things just happened to them.
Overall, I did not enjoy the story nor the writing. However, in terms of theme and relevance, this book does deal with some things that go on in society still to this day, mainly things involving women, violence, and the devaluing of women. I’m not sure if this book can be classified as a ‘girl power’ kind of book, but it has elements of that idea and I did like the fact that the protagonist doesn’t need a man to figure out her problems and save her – she does it entirely on her own (and mostly inebriated too, which was impressive). The book also deals with the notion of motherhood and what it means to be a woman in relation to being a mother or not being a mother. There was a line in the book that summed up society’s simplification of women quite succinctly:
Let’s be honest: women are still only really valued for two things – their looks and their role as mothers. (Pg 85)
I know things have come a long way in terms of feminism and things aren’t quite as backwards as they used to be, but nonetheless – it’s sad that this statement is generally still quite true in our culture; society’s just done a better job at hiding it now.
I think, overall, this book would have done well to focus more on exploring its themes by developing its characters further – and by being better written too as its prose tended to drag on, which can often happen when writing in first person – and to lessen the thriller, mainstream aspect reminiscent of Gone Girl that it was trying so hard to achieve (and I guess technically it did achieve it because everyone seems to like it except me). Or maybe lessen is the wrong word. I guess what I’m saying is I would have focused more on the themes of the book to make it stronger in terms of emotional engagement, and then the psychological thriller aspect would naturally just fall into place. But the urgency and cheap psychological thrills seemed forced to me, because there was no emotional engagement to back it all up, to make me give a damn.
So, overall would not recommend – unless you like trains, alcohol, and red herrings (I’m assuming that’s what the middle of the book was filled with).