If you work at a public library, you’re bound to have heard of the latest thriller, The Girl on the Train. In my library system there are currently 285 holds on the 101 copies we have in our collection, ergo, it is an extremely popular book. Apparently, “Gone Girl fans will devour this psychological thriller” (People) and “Nothing is more addicting than The Girl on the Train” (Vanity Fair). Needless to say I had to get my hands on a copy to see what all the fuss was about. I did, in fact, devour and thoroughly enjoy Gone Girl, so I assumed this book would be a hit, as well.
If you’re completely out of the librarian-loop, here is a brief synopsis from Amazon.com:
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good? Compulsively readable, The Girl on the Train is an emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller and an electrifying debut.
It sounds like a promising, thrilling read; however, I just finished reading it and I am left feeling let down. Am I the only person on the entire planet who was unimpressed by this novel? Perhaps since there was such a build-up I was expecting too much… although Gone Girl lived up to the hype.
I found the beginning of the story to be tedious- you start to wonder if the entire storyline is going to consist of Rachel’s daily commute on the train. I found my mind wandering, which is never a good sign, especially when the book is supposed to be an “electrifying” and “compulsive” read. I also found the character development rather weak. The story starts out alternating between Rachel and another character, Megan, narrating the chapters, and although the chapters are properly labeled with each character’s name, I didn’t even realize at first that there were two different characters. When a third character was added- Anna- I still didn’t see her character differ from the others. Generally when you have several different characters narrating a story, they all have distinct personalities, which makes it easy to distinguish which character is “speaking” at the time. This story was none too clear.
I also would not necessarily consider this a “thriller”- a mystery, yes; I continued reading it because I was curious how the story would end. But a real thriller is like Gone Girl when the story takes that turn in the middle and your mouth drops open, or in Dean Koontz’s Hideaway when you literally jump in your seat. The Girl on the Train paled in comparison. There also was no surprise-ending- nothing shocking or unpredictable happened, and you weren’t left feeling unsettled in the end, as with Gone Girl.
I don’t mean to bash this novel by any means. I’m simply confused as to why this book is flying off the shelves and being “devoured” by so many readers. Am I completely missing something here? Feel free to enlighten me and help me see this book as more than a weak (and rather annoying) main character, her train rides, and a ho-hum murder mystery.