Monday, February 9, 2015

The Girl On The Train: Do We Finally Have the "Next Gone Girl"?

(A quick note: In the next few weeks, you'll see a flurry of posts on this poor, neglected book blog. Rather than doing a two or three posts with a bunch of mini-reviews, which feels more like busy work than thoughtful writing, I think it be more fun to do a bunch of mini-posts over the next few weeks. I hope you enjoy!) 

(Oh, one more thing — as of today, links to books on the blog will be to RoscoeBooks's website — my place of part-time employment. If you're considering buying the book, I'd consider it a solid — and should we ever meet in person, buy you a beer — if you buy the book there. Cheers!)

I don't know what's more surprising, that publishers and reviewers are still, 2.5 years after its publication, using the "next Gone Girl" tag to describe books, or that in the case of British writer Paula Hawkins's The Girl On The Train, it's actually a pretty decent description. Hawkins won't be confused with Gillian Flynn in terms of her writerly chops (I think Flynn is in a class by herself in this regard), but Hawkins's twisty, turny thriller is certainly the best "next Gone Girl" yet.

The girl on the train is Rachel — an early 30s divorced woman who is rather a train wreck (terrible, but you can't look away, etc.). She drinks. She lies. She lies about her drinking. And she's been fired from her public relations job but takes the train into London everyday anyway to hide the fact of her unemployment from her increasingly worried flatmate. Much of the story is told from Rachel's perspective, as she tries to come to terms with her divorce — she is still obsessed with her ex-husband who has remarried a woman with whom he was having an affair while he and Rachel were married. Rachel often drunk-dials him. And then, after a particularly drunken evening, she becomes obsessed with trying to find out what happened the night our other narrator, beautiful, troubled Meg, disappears.

There's infidelity, a murder investigation, unreliable narrators, a mysterious red-haired man, and an accused, distraught husband. And what's more, there is cruelty between characters not often seen outside the pages of a novel. These people are utterly horrible to each other! It's certainly not the kind of novel you'll want to read if you must like your characters in order to like the novel.

The place where this novel diverges most from Gone Girl is its ending — both hurdle to a conclusion, but the way they wind up is very different. I'll just say I liked Gone Girl's much more.

Still, while it takes a little bit to gain momentum, this is an up-real-late-to-finish-type thriller that really makes you glad your own life is relatively stable — definitely worthy of its praise.

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