I succumbed and read The Girl on the Train! Why the hell didn’t any of you warn me that it would be impossible not to take it way too personally? J’accuse! (Just kidding; I like to stay unspoiled and wouldn’t have listened to you anyway.)
What’s funny is that I listen to the “My Favorite Murder” podcast, and I’ve listened to their promo for the movie a whole bunch of times, in which the script goes “devasted by her recent divorce…” blah blah blah blah. But what I didn’t expect from this novel was the Real Talk portrait of a woman recovering from being abandoned by an abusive husband. That’s a very specific experience, and while it’s more universal than you’d think (a very comforting thought, at least for me, to know that none of us is actually alone), it’s not a particularly popular journey in fiction, and there aren’t exactly any predictable tropes to lean on.
And that’s what made this so compelling but challenging for me: it’s a really real version of the experience, and the fact that Paula Hawkins gets it so right was a huge surprise for me. And that alone puts me on Team Girl on the Train, because normalize, normalize, normalize.
As a thriller, it’s a little predictable, and it leans a little heavily on form and style. Hawkins tells the story from the perspectives of the three women central to the story, all of whom are unreliable narrators, leaving the reader to do a lot of extra math to make the puzzle pieces fit together – apologies for the mixed metaphor, but you get it. It’s a little bit tedious because of that, but nevertheless an easy and “fun” read, more complicated and interesting than I had expected, and a valuable contribution to the genre.