There’s something happening with this whole “girl” thing. I’ll trace it back to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and say it’s really blown up with Gone Girl. It seems you put “girl” in title and you’re guaranteed to pique readers’ interest. Well, I thought The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was boring and didn’t finish it. I detested Gone Girl. And The Girl on the Train? Meh.
The Girl on the Train (Paula Hawkins, 2015) is a story told from three perspectives. We have Rachel, the titular girl; Anna, the woman who lives in Rachel’s old house; and Megan, the woman who inhabits the house Rachel spies on while riding the train back and forth to London. Rachel is, at best, an unreliable narrator, and, at worst, completely unlikable. She’s a screw-up divorcee who’s lost her job, ungraciously lives in a friend’s spare room, and spends the majority of her time and money drinking and riding the train in effort to hide the fact of her unemployment. Her musings about the loving couple on the rooftop terrace by the track switch isn’t abnormal – who hasn’t pondered on stories about the people we see on our daily commutes? – but her firm belief that she has pertinent information on Megan’s eventual disappearance is.
Because she has nothing better to do with her life, Rachel becomes perilously and unnecessarily involved in the police investigation into Megan and her husband. Perhaps we, as readers, are meant to feel some sort of vindication upon learning that Rachel’s instincts aren’t 100% wrong, but I couldn’t help but think that she had no business getting up in that situation in the first place and any danger that came to her afterward was of her own doing. Which is to say, I didn’t find her sympathetic in the least.
I can say that I did find the book easy and, to some extent, enjoyable to read. It was sort of a mental palate cleanser that didn’t require much effort to understand. Okay, that’s not really a compliment, but if you want to lie back with a mystery that’s not difficult to solve, a twist that’s been done way better elsewhere, and an ending that’s not at all surprising, you may enjoy it. Well, that’s still not a compliment. Let me put it this way: Enthralling, well-crafted thriller? No. Easy read that passed the time? Yes. Take from that what you will.