Every so often, a book comes out of nowhere that suddenly everyone is reading. The Twilight series. Oprah books. 50 Shades. And last year’s Gone Girl. Most of the time, these books are crap. But at least they get people reading and talking. I remember when Twilight came out, and a woman I knew — who never, ever read — was so obsessed with reading those books that she took time off from work and paid her nanny for extra hours so that she could read in peace. And last year, you couldn’t go a day without a conversation about Gone Girl. The shocking ending, the unreliable narrators, the brutal violence. Now it seems that everyone is trying to be the next Gillian Flynn.
While I’m not a huge fan of most of the books mentioned above, I’m glad that they exist. But sometimes, there’s so much hype about a book, that by the time you actually have a chance to read it, it doesn’t live up to all of the excitement. i think that’s what happened for me with The Girl on the Train.
Here’s what I liked about it:
An unknown, practically broke writer came out of nowhere to become this year’s most talked about author. Good for her. How often is the new, literary “it girl” actually a journey woman in her 40s? I’m happy for Paula Hawkins and wish her all the success in the world.
Paula Hawkins didn’t pull any punches in making her characters unlikable. That was a brave choice.
Her vivid descriptions of modern-day London life was so spot on, I practically felt like I was riding along on the train with Rachel. Or heading out for a coffee downtown. Or commuting on a crowded train every day. The train scenes were the ones I liked the best.
But mostly, I didn’t really like this book. Spoilers, ahoy.
I didn’t like a single character. The three women who narrated the story were all just the worst. And I hated Rachel most of all. Yes, I’m sorry that she was manipulated and treated poorly by her husband. And yes, I feel badly that she had become an alcoholic. But come on. She was just awful. But in her defense, I was really glad that she didn’t turn out to be the killer. I honestly suspected her for a huge chunk of the book.
And because Rachel, Megan, and Anna were so unreliable in their versions of the story, every other character in the book was tainted. Was Cathy a shrewish bitch? Or was Cathy just fed up with a roommate who would pee and throw up in her hallway? Who knows?
I can’t deny that the book was a page turner. I’m sure it will pop up in thousands of beach bags this summer. And I’m glad. Whatever gets people reading. I wonder… if I had picked this up on a whim, without all of the accompanying hullaballoo, would I have enjoyed it more? Regardless, I’m glad I read it. I’m just sorry I didn’t enjoy it.