Friday, August 28, 2015

Book Report: The Girl On The Train

 I've decided this review will be very spoilery. Yes, that's a word. Because I say it is. I have the power.

So if you didn't read The Girl On The Train and would like to save the mystery for a later date, don't read ahead. If you did read it, or just don't give a shit about finding out what happens, read on.

This book was heavily marketed as the next Gone Girl, which sets the bar pretty darn high, since that book was da bomb. (Do people still say 'da bomb?') Anyways, if you didn't read Gone Girl then what follows will spoil that shit for you too. Also, do some fucking reading. It's good for you, I swear.

So, if you decided to join the Quirky Canuck book club as I recommended last week, good for you. Here we go.

My first impression of the book was "bleeeghhh noooo!"

Let me tell you why using the example of two funnymen I seriously respect, because their opinions match my own:

I am immediately turned off when I realize a book is written this way. It takes me some time to get into it and stop noticing that part of the author's style. To me it feels more like the cheesy narration of a student art film. "I splay my arm across the cool cotton sheets and ponder what a waste my life has been." -FIN-

Usually I check this out by flipping to a random page before buying a book, but this one was bought at a thrift store and it just slipped my mind as I was too busy finding four books so the fifth would be free. I snatched this one up at the last second as my freebie.

Present tense takes away from that feeling of someone telling you a story. It would seem very obvious that such a storyteller vibe is the most appropriate tone for the format of a novel, especially one written in the first person. "This is what happened to me." Instead of "here is what's happening to me that I'm somehow relaying to you in real time." It feels unnatural. Because nobody speaks that way. But some authors still choose this present tense weirdness to tell their stories, and it seems I'm not alone in thinking that it blows.

With that bit of crabbing aside, I was very intrigued by the format of the book, at least in the beginning. I enjoyed the whole "morning" and "evening" entries, showing us the daily train commute of Rachel, our protagonist, going to and from London. There's something dark and sinister about her observations that made me want to stick with her to find out just what the hell her deal was. And it's worth finding out.

Let me just say that the protagonist is the character you relate to and through whose eyes you view the story, and whose perspective you experience. You usually (not always) like the protagonist. But this wasn't the case in The Girl On The Train. Rachel is more like the protagon-ish, because she's written to be an unreliable narrator, not to mention the fact that she's a raging alcoholic whose behavior makes you full-on cringe many times. I wanted to punch the book at a few points. "No, Rachel! Don't call your fucking ex AGAIN!"

The format of the book also keeps you on your feet with its shifting narrator. You get to see things, (sometimes the exact same event) from different eyes, which will fill in the narrative blanks left by one character's limited perspective.

Our narrators are Rachel (pathetic alcoholic hot-mess), Anna (Rachel's ex's mistress turned new wife and baby mama, also a hot mess), and Megan (bored housewife who goes missing, hot mess number three). Thanks for the variety, Paula Hawkins.

As an average, non-fucked up woman, it was hard to relate to any of these women. One is full out stalking her ex while her life goes down the loo (because the book is British, you see), one is completely proud of having been the 'other woman,' and one is unfaithful and dishonest about her past to her husband. Yeesh!

This abundance of hotmessness is probably the reason the reader feels compelled to continue, now that I think about it.

SPECIFIC SPOILER TIME: Megan goes missing and boozy Rachel finds herself blacked out and covered in blood during the same timeframe. And she happens to know she was in the same area at the time of the disappearance. We suspect her of foul play immediately because she's just all round cray-cray. Even Rachel doubts herself and spends a good chunk of the book trying to put together the pieces of fragmented memories (are they memories?) of that night.

As the reader, I was totally with her in spirit as she attempted to shed light on her black-out to find the truth, even though her methods leave you wanting to slap her, i.e. texting her remarried ex yet again, showing up outside his house, lying to Megan's husband, and even going for a session with Megan's therapist/suspected kidnapper.

Unfortunately the whodunnit aspect of the novel was ruined for me when I figured out... well... whodunnit pretty early on. I saw all the red herrings for what they were, as I'm sure many readers did. But again, Hawkins' ominous style and time-shifting storytelling kept me invested. I also absolutely needed to find out how Rachel was going to come out of all this in the end, because DAYUM that woman has problems.

I felt a twinge of annoyance when it was revealed that - SPOILER - missing Megan was pregnant when she - SPOILER - was killed. It felt like a blatant plundering of Gone Girl's plot, and it also made me a little miffed that as a society we need to make a dead woman pregnant in order for it to be considered a REAL tragedy.

Although I have my complaints about this book, it was clearly well written and interesting enough to keep my attention right to the end, and if I hadn't read Gone Girl, I would have thought it was very unique, and probably not have accurately anticipated some of the plot points.

I'm deducting 2 quirks from my rating. One for lack of originality and the fact that I was able to make accurate predictions fairly early, and one for the usage of present tense. Otherwise, an enjoyable read.

Up next in the Quirky Canuck book club, The Martian by Andy Weir. Read along with me this week, won't you?

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him & forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded & completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—& even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. 

Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—& a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

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