The Girl on the Train Review

I know I am a little late on the hype surrounding the bestseller book The Girl on the Train, but better late than never I suppose. I just want to iterate that I did not read this book on the account of its popularity, I read it because I was genuinely interested in the plot and heard that it was worth the read. Now, after finishing the book, I have my review and likes/dislikes. (By the way, photo credit to Niki Busler).

THIS POST WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS!!!!

Likes:

  1. The writing style/narration: Paula Hawkins has an amazing writing style and the way she describes the events, places, people, thoughts, etc. is phenomenal. Also, she switches the perspective periodically between all the women in the book. She makes sure to give the reader the date and time of who is speaking and when so that you won’t become confused. Each one of these is set up as a “chapter” so it makes it easy to go back and check when something happened in the story.
  2. Hawkins does an amazing job of demonstrating the struggles of addiction and abuse. At first, I was really upset with the main character, Rachel, for constantly saying that the reason her marriage broke up was because of her even though Tom was the one that had the affair. After finding out much later in the novel that Rachel was in fact abused by Tom, it made way more sense. Abusive relationships are made to belittle and diminish your self-worth, which was accurately portrayed by Rachel. She also spiraled into depression after finding out she was infertile which led to her addiction to alcohol. Hawkins accurately portrayed Rachel as a struggling addict and never gave her the magic “I’m cured” attitude when that isn’t reality. Rachel struggles with her alcoholism to the last page of the novel making it very realistic.
  3. The story was constructed by giving just enough clues to keep the reader going. Truthfully, I finished the book in a day because I wanted to keep reading to find out what happened to Megan, the missing girl that Rachel becomes obsessed with finding. The plot also didn’t have any “boring points” in my opinion.

Dislikes:

  1. Rachel has these blackouts throughout the novel and they are never fully explained. Is it because she is just super drunk? Is it some medical condition? She never evens asks the therapist Abdic Kamal about them when she goes to inadvertently investigate his involvement with Megan’s disappearance. Rachel only seems concerned with getting those memories back to feel accountable rather than finding out the underlying cause of them, which is weird and abnormal to me.
  2. All of the female characters (Rachel, Anna, and Megan) all let the men have power over them in some way or another. There are no strong female lead characters that exhibit any sort of will to do anything other than what the men in their lives want them to do. Rachel consistently pines over Tom, the man who cheated on her and beat her. Anna wants to do anything and everything Tom tells her and it even goes as far as allowing Tom to rape her. Megan is obsessed with men and always wants to be in the company of a man, even if it means having an affair. In my opinion, the female characters were extremely weak and underdeveloped.
  3. On the flip side, the male characters were almost all abusers. The reader feels sorry for Scott because his wife is missing and he was being cheated on. Hawkins sets us up to be sympathetic to him, yet then we find out he nearly killed Megan by choking her when he found out about her infidelity. Scott also beat the snot out of Rachel when he found out she lied about knowing Megan personally. Tom was also an abuser, but I will get to his character in my next point. Abdic Kamal was probably the only one who didn’t physically abuse any women, yet he was sleeping around with his patient and lying about the affair.
  4. Tom. Oh Tom. I think something that really bothered me about his character was his abusive nature. I mean, yes, of course abuse is going to bother everyone, but I am more specifically talking about his lack of consistency. Abusers always have the want and need to dominate, which makes sense in his relationship with Rachel. He was constantly manipulating her when she was thinking back on their relationship. Magically though, he’s this amazing, nice man to Anna, and his abuse only comes out at the tail end of the novel. He has been with Anna for two years which would show some sort of physical domination during that time if he was as abusive as his later character proves to be. He almost had a night and day switch from the beginning of the novel to the end (we don’t even find out till the end that he was abusing Rachel). True abusers are perpetually wanting to abuse and dominate. I doubt just his lies would have been enough to hold him over with Anna, so this aspect of his character was not well-thought out nor developed enough as an abuser.

Overall, I would rate this book 3/5 stars. I just felt as though the characters were extremely underdeveloped. The structure and plot were well-constructed and definitely had the twists and turns of a mystery/thriller novel; however, I felt as though I disliked more aspects than I liked. I was going to do the traditional book-lover thing to do and watch the movie as soon as I was done with the book (since the movie came out in 2016), but, to be honest, I have no desire to watch the movie now that I have read the book. I would also probably never reread this book because I was just too furious with the characters. What are other people’s thoughts on this book? Comment below!

Why I Hate the Standard Essay…

Writing a paper or an essay in high school English and English 101 and 102 in college seems like it’s sucking the creativity right out of the students. “Write an introduction, three body paragraphs that defend your argument, and a conclusion to reinforce your point.” I’m sorry…are we all suddenly robots? Where is the creativity in this form of writing?! By teaching everyone to write the same way, what service are we really providing the students that come in to the classroom? All the great writers of novels and poetry didn’t become great because they wrote the exact same way as everyone else. They became great because they tried new and adventurous things with their writing.

I was just reading these silly little confessions that are anonymous where former teachers explain why they decided to quit teaching. In about 99% of the confessions, the people said that they quit teaching because of the “politics” of teaching. So, the students don’t like the standard essay, the teachers don’t like being told how to run their classrooms….so why isn’t there a change? Now don’t get me wrong, I know it’s not as easy as a magic snap of the fingers and then suddenly everything will be fine, but I wanted a chance to open up some eyes and thoughts to this subject.

Back to the typical “standard” essay. I was in my advanced composition class and we had a huge discussion about this type of writing. She showed us an essay that was written by a student that probably would have gotten rave reviews on the ACT or SAT. It was an essay that had a problem, then action to fix the problem, then a reflection on how that problem and scenario changed their life. BORING! Like come on…can’t we get something creative in there? What about some narrative or some dialogue between you and that girl that you had a problem with at work. What feelings were you experiencing? What was the setting? Teachers even go so far to say that you cannot use the word “I” in a research paper, and this still holds true in college classes. My question is WHY? Why can’t I use an I? How does putting my personal reflection or experience into the paper deem it “unprofessional?” Shouldn’t that establish more credibility?

I recently wrote an argumentative paper on why everyone should go to the courthouse to get married. I started with experience at the courthouse. I explained the whole scene. My thesis of “getting a courthouse wedding is cheaper and more meaningful than the big white wedding” wasn’t even until, like, the third page. So I guess my rant stems from the fact that I think this idea of having a “standard” essay that builds a road map to what/how kids are writing completely squishes all senses of creativity. Then we go and wonder why kids in high school and college hate writing…maybe we need to reevaluate here…