Oh wow! Note to self, avoid spoilers! Avoid Wikipedia! I’m glad I only visited ‘The Girl on the Train’ novel and movie Wikipedia pages after finishing the audiobook. As the Wikipedia pages literally give away the entire story from start to suspenseful finish in the plot summaries. Don’t you hate that? Especially when it’s a suspenseful-thriller with or without a twist at the end??? Hey hey? Did you like my use of the word ‘twist’ to hint at a potential twist or a “twist” at the end of the book?*Winks*.
So in my review of the Audiobook, I’m going to try my best to avoid spoiling the story for you, but I’m sure many many of you have already read the book and/or watched the movie by now.
Okay, here goes, a super quick summary of ‘The Girl on the Train’ by Paula Hawkins. The book is set in the suburbs of London, where the main protagonist of the novel (Rachel Watson) catches a London-bound train into work each morning. At the same time, at the same set of signal lights, the train slows/stops and during this short interval most mornings Rachel spies out the train’s window on a young married couple out on their home’s back patio. Struggling with issues of depression and alcoholism, Rachel idealises this young couple’s lives, imagining their perfect relationship with each other, until one morning when Rachel sees something she ought not/didn’t want to see. The next day the wife (Megan Hipwell) is reported missing, and Rachel might be the only one who has vital knowledge to her disappearance. And the story/intrigue/suspense builds from there!
I hope my wife doesn’t mind me disclosing this, but her pet hate is cringe-worthy situations, be that people, shows, books etc. etc. So much so that if she finds something cringing she’d avoid the real-life scenario, stop listening to a book, or stop watching a show if her cringe monitor is set-off. And initially ‘The Girl on the Train’ set-off her “That’s so cringing” alarm bells. Yes, Rachel is pretty cringing. So ‘The Girl on the Train’ soon became ‘Your book’, rather than ‘Our book’, and she would listen to something else or do something else when I was spending alone time with the girl on the train.
And this segues nicely to my discussion of the ‘flawed protagonist’. What do I mean by this? Okay, in most fictional novels most of the time (let’s call it 85% of the time), novelists construct a main character who is near perfect! Be that smarter than the average man/woman, possesses above average physical attributes, a strong sense of awareness and astuteness, maintains a healthy dose of confidence, and generally makes good, well-thought-through choices. As writer’s naturally project their best selves into their main character, as what author wants to spend the next 6-18 months inside the head of a flawed protagonist? However I believe what is a good measure of a good author, is their ability to go against the norm, and bring to life a troubled character, carefully juggling the character’s negative and more positive traits; so that the reader is torn between being constantly frustrated by the main character, while cheering them on at every opportunity! As Rachel really is the quintessential flawed protagonist, making many bad choices along the way, which eat away at her already shattered self-confidence and spirals her further into a funk. I found myself muttering many-a-times “Oh no, oh no, don’t do it Rachel!” and then the inevitable headshake from me when she does what she ought not do, getting herself embroiled deeper and deeper into the mess she’s found herself in. It was these sections of the book which my wife disliked, as they were so cringe-worthy. However Girl on the Train was so alluring, that my wife eventually came back, no matter how frustrating Rachel was as a protagonist.
And we’ve rarely done this before, but on Australia Day we just sat there on the lounge and binge-listened to the audiobook (we usually just listen to 15 mins before bed). But on this day we just wanted so badly to find out who? Why? Where? What? When? Considering it had taken me almost a month to reach the ¾ mark, but we utterly smashed out the final 4 hours of the book in a single epic sitting! The Girl on the Train is suspenseful, thrilling and will have you guessing all the way to the end; the audiobook is around 11 hours long, and even into the final 90 minutes we were still pretty clueless as to how the book might end!
So I now know why the book and the movie were such successes, as it’s a thriller for the ages!
The only tiny critique I have for the audiobook experience, was the inconsistencies with the Narrators. The book is a first-person narrative following 3 different female characters, the producers actually went to the effort and expense to use 3 different Narrators (Claire Corbett, Louise Brealey, and India Fisher) to narrate the three parts- which was a nice touch. And each narrator were suited perfectly to their characters and it was their voice and their acting which brought each character to life, giving them each a unique personality. However my one critique of the experience was the inconsistency when characters crossed over into another narrator’s sphere. If you’ve heard the audiobook, you’ll be nodding by now. This inconsistency was most evident with Kamal, a psychiatrist in the novel. In Megan’s interaction with him, Megan’s narrator gives Kamal an Eastern European accent, giving him a thoughtful gentle cadence to his tone and character. But when Rachel encounters him, the Narrator for Rachel gives him a broad British accent, and lowers her voice to make him sound like an overweight rotund fellow! It kind of ruined the mental image which I had developed for the characters of the book. Surely they would have flagged this and considered re-recording those segments of tapes in post-production? *Shrug*. But I’m nit-picking here.
In conclusion, awesome read! You’re left guessing all the way to the end of the book (as long as you don’t check-out Wikipedia), and no matter how flawed a character Rachel is, you’ll still get behind her!
For the audio book of ‘The Girl on the Train’, click on the Audible link below:
And if you like The Girl on the Train and would like to listen to other similar titles, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is also a good one (the audiobook experience is very good and uses multiple narrators). BTW, have you heard of the term ‘Unreliable narration’? Um, whatever that means……. They say both ‘The Girl on the Train’ and ‘Gone Girl’ utilises this narration method, taking a swing in the dark (perhaps with or without a heavy stone in hand) I’m thinking the term means when there are multiple first person perspectives in a book, like as if they are diary entries. However later on you find out that the diary entries weren’t entirely true which brings into question everything else which proceeded it? Comment in the comment section below, have I correctly understood the term ‘Unreliable narration’? But in short, Gone Girl is also very very good, similar, and very good! To listen to Gone Girl, click on the Audible link below:
And my all time favourite ‘Flawed protagonist’ is LAPD’s Harry Bosch, but I’ll leave that discussion for another day…….