Sunday, May 17, 2015

Book review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Welcome to another mini book reviews edition of my blog.

In today’s mini reviews feature, I share my brief thoughts on one of the best psychological thrillers I’ve read this year so far.

You can purchase a copy of The Girl on the Train via Raru.co.za


Summary from Goodreads (published by Doubleday, an imprint of Transworld publishers in 2015)

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens.

She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough.

Now everything’s changed.

Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar.

Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…

What I thought:
Oh my aching soul. This review is going to be a jumble of tangled thoughts because I need to get these thoughts out of my head, and I need to get it out now (I may write a more coherent review at some point, but for now, my inner fangirl must come OUT).

The Girl on the Train is probably the best thriller I’ve read this year so far - and this by a debut author no less.

If you're looking for the kind of book that is anxiety-inducing, yet will force you to keep you reading, then you should look no further than The Girl on the Train.

Paula Hawkins has a remarkable knack for pulling you into the story; her messy, unreliable and brilliantly drawn characters leaving you perpetually unsettled and constantly on edge.

In fact, the portrayal of each character's neurotic obsessions and often paranoid delusions (are they really?), are so unnervingly real, you can't help but feel as if every single one of their doubts, fears and lingering suspicions have been imprinted on you, leaving you with the worst case of second-hand apprehension imaginable.

I am pretty sure I developed whiplash just from reading this book, as I was constantly chopping and changing my mind about the characters, their motivations and behaviour patterns.

Speaking of characters, if you’re going into this book expecting to feel any form of warm or fuzzy feelings for any of them, allow me to disabuse you of that notion.

They’re not the kind of protagonists you’d want to be friends with. Hell, these are probably the kind of people you wouldn’t want within reaching distance of you.

And yet, for all that, they do inspire sympathy, empathy and compassion in the reader... at least when they're not doing things that frustrate  you, or make you want to shake your head in pure despair at the level of absurdity of their actions.

Rachel, our heroine, in particular was a character I felt for on so many levels.

She's a complete and utter wreck. She teeters on the edge of self-destruction, and her alcoholism only adds to the fact that what she sees and experiences, is not conducive to her being a reliable witness.

And the more she tries to insert herself into the investigation that follows, the more questionable her behaviour becomes.

Still, in spite of the reckless and irresponsible things that she does, there was something about her that made me keep rooting for her to get to the bottom of the mystery, while at the same time, also had me hoping that she’d pull her act together. 

However, there is so much more to her story than meets the eye. And indeed, at the end of this book, I ended up seeing Rachel as much of a victim as anyone else.

Mostly thought, I saw her as a survivor, and one that was determine to do the right thing, even if it was at the cost of her sanity.

I did work out who the villain in the story was relatively early (and yet, I was still taken aback, that's how good Paula's characterisation of the culprit was), and watching this person unravel was as creepy, chilling and disturbing as some of the actions of the other suspects in the book. 

I won’t forget this antagonist, that’s for sure!

One of the most compelling, spine-chilling and thoroughly engrossing novels I've read so  this year so far, I know this is a book that will stick with many people for a long time to come.

After all, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins is not just a book about secrets in the dark, but it's also a cautionary tale of what happens when lines between reality and illusion are blurred and already volatile situations are misconstrued, misinterpreted and taken apart before justice has even been properly invited to the party.

It’s a book that speaks to us about treading carefully with information, because what you think you see, is often not always what it actually is, and it’s a message (whether intentional or not) that is especially relevant in today’s society, where we’re so quick to judge and assume things about others – especially with the ease that social media networks allow us to.

Go out and get this book – it’s a corker of a read.

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