I have stayed far, far away from those books that are compared to Gone Girl. I bypassed Liane Moriarty and S.J.Watson just because I loved Gone Girl so much, and I didn’t want to dilute the novelty of that reading experience with a bunch of me-too novels.
I don’t know why I said yes to The Girl on the Train (from now on called TGOTT) by Paula Hawkins but I guess it’s because it’s been two years since Gone Girl and I am looking for the next thriller of the year.
So What’s the Book About?
A commuter fantasizes about a couple that she sees on her train journey every day. One day she spots something very shocking, and soon before she knows it she’s swept up in mystery and danger.
The above paragraph sums up the story in a nutshell. The paragraph may sound like the book is boring and stereotyped, but it’s better than the blurb at the back of the book, which went into too much detail, in my opinion. This is a book better delved into without too much advance knowledge.
The Key Question – Is it as Good as Gone Girl?
Honestly, it’s not. In some ways, it is better, in some ways, not so. Here’s a list of what I liked better in TGOTT:
- More sympathetic characters. The characters are less sociopathic in TGOTT. There was someone to root for, and that’s always an incentive to continue reading.
- Less predictable mystery. In Gone Girl, there was one major plot twist in the middle of the book, and after that the rest of the book didn’t hold my interest as much as I would have liked it to.
I rated Gone Girl so high just because I loved the psychological he said, she said angle of the book. In TGOTT, I kept moving from suspect to suspect without being quite sure till the last couple of chapters. So Hawkins did a better job holding the suspense. Throughout, I was dead sure that X was the culprit, only to have the rug pulled under my feet in the end.
Here’s where Gone Girl scored:
- Originality and Writing. Let’s face it, this was the first book I read with such a plot. I loved the unreliable narrator motif, the intense focus on just two characters, and the sly commentary on marriage. Most notably, I thought for a thriller, this book was incredibly well-written, and really just such a trendsetter.
TGOTT is following in its footsteps. It’s more of a conventional thriller. It’s plot is quite different from Gone Girl (in my opinion, the old Hitchcock thriller Rear Window is a better comparison) and it has this interesting motif of an outsider looking into a marriage, however, it’s just not as well-written as Gone Girl. Better plotted? Yes, but not better written. The writing is good but nothing to write home about.
- Memorable. Gone Girl has remained in the public consciousness for a couple of years now and it’s a book that sparks a lot of discussion. TGOTT on the other hand is a good book, a great summer read, will make a great summer movie. But I don’t really see passionate discussions or feelings surrounding this book. It’s a great read while you are reading it. It’s a great mystery. But it’s not memorable.
My Thoughts Aside From the Comparisons
The protagonists – Rachel and Megan are brilliantly drawn. On the surface they seem poles apart and really unlikable. Rachel especially is so pathetic. I was torn between feeling really sorry for her and shaking her for her stupidity and self-pity. Megan is initially drawn as the perfect woman in the perfect marriage stereotype, but appearances are deceiving.
There are more characters in the book too – all well drawn, well-rounded people. I could imagine all of them in my mind so very well.
The setting is also perfect. I love people watching. So many times I find myself admiring perfect-seeming couples at coffee shops or at the malls, while I wait for my always late husband to show up. I could so relate to Rachel’s people-watching on the train.
I thought the story was believable and I liked the plot ending. The starting of the book was a bit confusing. It took me a few chapters to understand what was going on, as also the timing of events, but once I understood the format of the story, it was pretty easy-going.
All in all, I loved this book. It’s been marketed as the thriller to read in 2015 and I agree. There is a tense aspect to the book that will keep you reading right till the end, and then you will end up going back to bits and pieces of the book to find out where you missed the clues. At least, that’s what I did!
Highly recommend! Considering this is Hawkins’ debut novel, it’s fantastic, and I look forward to reading more thrillers by her.
Huge thanks to Penguin Random House for sending me this book for review consideration.
You can also purchase a copy of this book from Amazon