How difficult is it to become emotionally invested in another book right after having read what you thought was the book of all books? Extremely. And I get this every time. Having recently read James Carol’s Broken Dolls, the literary part of my life had set the bar extremely high for my next read. Since then, I’ve picked up a few books, read no more than a third and gave up; nothing quite ticked the boxes.
Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train has left me pleasantly surprised. It does start off extremely slow, however eventually, you grow to appreciate that Hawkins took her time here, letting us get comfortable with Rachel and getting us to know her as much as we need to so that we can remain on her side by the end.
It’s amazing how many different ways Hawkins uses to express the train metaphor; its build-up of speed is mirrored in the gradual way that events are uncovered throughout the novel, speed also represents Rachel’s constantly drunken mindset and, therefore, hazy outlook on life and she uses it to convey the irony of how drastically Rachel’s life had changed despite the monotony of train travel as well as the back-and-forth structure of the novel depicting the repetitive nature of train travel.
It’s difficult to connect with Rachel until around halfway through the book. Hawkins draws her in a very realistic way, an everyday alcoholic, and she even becomes slightly irritating at first. As we learn more about her past, though, Hawkins makes sure that we’re on the same page as Rachel at all times. She uses a very similar technique to get us to like Megan and Anna; they’re introduced in almost a suspiciously simplistic way, making them almost unreal and cartoon-like and, while Rachel’s memories unfold, we come to realise that Megan is far more troubled and scarred than we thought and Anna isn’t as deluded as we had thought. Hawkins ties her protagonists together simultaneously as a way of ironing out the disorientating structure of the novel, showing that the 3 of them are almost the same person in many ways.
The element of suspense springs up very unexpectedly in this book. It is quite difficult to push through the mundane first half but it’s definitely worth it. Hawkins never reveals too much or too little at a time, she knows the exact order and extent to which she ought to reveal new clues and this keeps us absolutely glued to the edge of our seats.
The Girl on the Train embodies everything you can ever look for in a thriller novel; we’re presented with every-day circumstances which Hawkins twists and turns into something we’d never expected, giving the book a very satisfying, entirely unforeseen ending.
It’s been a pleasure!