Paula Hawkins – The Girl on the Train (#11 of 26)

This was the potboiler that had been making waves for quite some time now and I’d consciously avoided picking it up after Gone Girl. Then I’d once dabbled with the possibility of listening to the audio-book version of it but Audible failed me then. With the impending movie hurtling towards and Amazon offering a nice discount, the bullet was finally bit.

First things first, the comparisons with Gone Girl are justified because of the basic theme – there is no escaping that. A missing girl, man-hunt, mixed up relationships, the police on the heels of the central protagonist – the similarities are quite stark and will have you deja-vu’ing in no time. So the good – the writing style is smooth, easy and hookable – it’s unputdownable without exaggeration.There’s genuine tension created, there’re some solid twists (although mildly predictable I felt) and a basic premise which is very relatable. After all who hasn’t sat in a train and wondered about the lives of the people we see? It’s voyeuristic and yet familiar.

thegirlonthetrain

Where the two books differ is in character building and narrative styles. I thought one of the big successes of Gone Girl was how Gillian Flynn had us rooting for Amy in the first half, and then Nick in the second half. TGOTT didn’t quite do that for me – I couldn’t find any of the three point-of-view characters sympathetic, least of all Rachel who takes up most of the time and footage. And while it’s still a page-turner by all means, it’s one of those page turners where you’re rushing through to get over the ‘unknown’ instead of relishing in all its glory. It’s difficult to root for a character who’s constantly in a drunken stupor, constantly cribs and complains, does nothing reasonably sensible – in fact does things which are completely ridiculously stupid, shows no intent to buckle down and make things work, right up to the end.

My other peeve was the way information was revealed. Again, I hate to compare to Gone Girl but while we had unreliable and dishonest narrators, it seemed that was the way they were. The diary entries were misleading, but intentionally so – and while we didn’t know that till later, no one else did either. Likewise with a lot of Nick’s dirty laundry, it was gradually revealed to the reader as it was (or before it would be) to the rest of the world outside – or when the protagonist got to telling that part of the story. In TGOTT, I got the feeling the author was ‘cheating’ a bit. First with the dates – the whole part of Megan’s story running in a completely distinct timeline was the key to the whole book. And that’s not really fair, if you want to let in information like that – use a better plot device like the diary. Secondly, while it’s okay to not have a character be completely honest – to be selectively dishonest is even worst (I know it’s a thin line). So if Megan never mentions Tom, or there’s a throw away reference about how she doesn’t want to speak about Tom maybe – that’s OK. What’s unfair again is speaking about Tom, meeting him, knowing his relationship with his wife but then leaving out a big fat point of data – only because it would have taken the sting out of the story. And finally I kept feeling throughout that the drunken memory loss – even with the swerve – is a lazy crutch to tell a mystery story.

The masala Bollywood movie equivalent  – don’t overanalyse it, go with the flow and you’ll have a lot of fun.

Entertainment Quotient : ★★★★
Education Quotient : ★★★
Readability : ★★★★★

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