Even before Paula Hawkins’ “The Girl on the Train” made it to bookstore shelves, it was already garnering glowing reviews from critics, with many declaring it the new “Gone Girl,” Gillian Flynn’s disturbing novel that was turned into a film directed by David Fincher and which earned actor Rosamund Pike her first Best Actress Oscar nomination.
Just like “Gone Girl,” “The Girl on the Train” is difficult to review because you have to remain as vague as possible, lest you end up giving away the secret.
The story centers around downtrodden frequent train commuter Rachel Watson, who passes the long travel time by watching people and making up stories about them in her head.
When one of her favorite subjects goes missing, she finds her hours of people-watching useful as she tries to solve the mystery on her own, based on her observations.
Rachel soon discovers that she has a connection to the missing person, and as the story progresses, the author switches perspectives by adding two other narrators into the mix.
Though Rachel is keenly observant, she sees everything through a booze-induced haze, making her accounts inaccurate, if not completely untrustworthy.
If young-adult novels cycled through vampire and dystopian trends, the hottest thing to hit popular fiction today is the unreliable narrator, coupled with highly dysfunctional marriages (See also S.J. Watson’s “Before I Go To Sleep”).
“The Girl on the Train” was just released last January, and it’s been such a huge hit that Dreamworks has reportedly bought the film rights already. Former journalist turned novelist Paula Hawkins says in interviews how surreal the experience is, to have her first novel become a huge best seller, which is also mostly likely being read now by people enduring long train rides (Hawkins has said that the inspiration for the story came from her own frequent train journeys, as well).
It is the perfect read for anyone who’s obsessively followed crime cases on TV and the Internet, for anyone who has been tempted to call criminal tip hotlines to offer insights and opinions on whodunit.
Is it as diabolical as “Gone Girl”? Not quite, but it’s a fast-paced yarn that doesn’t run out of steam.
“The Girl on the Train” is available at National Book Store or as an eBook from the Kobo Store.