Ronny Chieng: International Student- Netflix

I’m hoping so so much that Ronny Chieng films a second series of his hilarious TV show ‘Ronny Chieng: International Student’; but after scouring the web for rumours and rumours of rumours, but unfortunately 18 months on since its first airing on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) there isn’t any word that   Ronny’s going to be back for a second semester at the University of Melbourne. Boo!

If you didn’t watch ‘Ronny Chieng: International Student’ when it aired on the ABC in June 2017, don’t fret! Because you can also find it on Netflix (Australian library at least). And we started watching it on the Monday and by Thursday of the same week we had already finished all 6 episodes and shouting for an encore!  Okay, here is my quick summary of what to expect from Ronny Chieng: International (full-fee paying) Student: the 6 27 min episodes is an Australian produced  comedy about Ronny’s first semester at the University of Melbourne studying Law (which is based loosely on Ronny’s real-life experiences studying a Law/Commerce degree at U of Mel back in 09). The series follows his adventures as he navigates/adapts to a new culture, new friends, and new living arrangements at International house, cross-cultural differences, a nemesis, a potential love interest, and the typical goings on of university-campus life. But throw in Ronny’s sense of humour where they have a light-hearted laugh at everyone (you, me, the rando stranger) and there you have Ronny Chieng’s first comedy series and his time in Australia as an International student!

For us, we found it so funny! As it was Australian comedy done well and because we’re Aussie-Asian (unfortunately not International students) we could still find all the jokes and skits totally relatable.  It was like laughing at them, at us, at them and at us again! And Ronny and his co-writer Declan Fay, accurately captured all the nuances of the cultures, playing-up stereotypes which we hold (wile not being too offensive), and gave each character a distinct and likeable personality.

For the Asian viewer at least, we could relate to   and laugh (nervously at times) at overly concerned/controlling Asian parents; the travesty of leaving your shoes on when within the place of dwelling; the habit of doing a numero uno or dos with the door open; aldehyde dehydrogenase deficiency i.e.g ‘Asian flush’ after the slightest amount of alcohol; and meeting Asians with made-up mish-mash English names (guilty! I’m one of them…..)……… And that list was only some of the funnier parts/self-deprecating jokes from episode 1! You have have have to watch it! And if you’re not Asian……. Yeah, I can still see you enjoy it as well. I’m sure it’ll remind you of your Asian friends/acquaintances? And who doesn’t appreciate some light-hearted tongue-in-cheek comedy?

Check-it out! Just search ‘Ronny Chieng: International student on your Netflix app’, there is much to laugh about! Hey! If you’re reading this post and you’re not from Australia, here is a message from the Australian Tourism Board……… They will also like you to check-it-out! If to this point, the totality of your awareness of Australia are kangaroos, koalas, Steve Irwin, the Opera house, Harbour Bridge, and Hugh Jackman…. Allow Ronny’s point-of-view show you a different (all be that a satirical take) side of Australia! The good, the bad, and the ugly. **Disclaimer: All negative behaviour, racist slurs, drug & alcohol abuse is only reflective of Melbourne culture, and is not a fair representation of life in Sydney…….

>Ronny Chieng Profile: Ronny is originally from Malaysia, before spending a number of his primary school years in the United States. Ronny spent a total of 10 years in Australia, first as an International student at the University of Melbourne (combine Commerce/Law degree); before kick-starting his stand-up Comedy career in the Australian comedy circuit. Ronny now resides in the States, where he is a correspondent on The ‘Daily Show’ which airs out of the New York City Comedy Central studios. We first stumbled upon Ronny Chieng’s work in 2013, when we were watching clips from his Youtube channel. And over the years we’ve listened to his podcast (OK Cool), and by chance the only episode of Wilosophy with Wil Anderson I’ve heard, happened to be the live show where Ronny was the guest. So you can say we’ve had some affinity with him, and I’m a bit of a RC fan-boy. Hehehe.   

 p.s. If you’re interested to see Ronny Chieng up-close and in the flesh? Ronny will be back in Sydney to perform his Stand-up show ‘Tone Issues’ at the Enmore  theatre on Thursday 4 April, 7pm. Tickets are selling fast!

Tontaro Ramen Honten- Sydney CBD

Can you ever have too much of a good thing?

Ok, guilty! I’m behaving exactly like the quintessential Sydney foodie i.e. only dining at a restaurant because it’s new! (Meanwhile giving up on an opportunity to dine at a proven winner.) I posed this question to my wife the other day: “Now that we’ve eaten at a few places over the past months, is there a restaurant deserving of our repeat patronage?” And her answer was “Yes, Yasaka Ramen”. And instead my blogger mind processed ‘something something ramen’ (cause each meal must be a bloggable opportunity’ so I instead took her (in reality she took me) to Tontaro Ramen Honten- the latest ramen joint to join the already crowded Sydney ramen scene.

Tontaro Ramen Honten (or Tontaro Ramen Headquarters for those who are curious about the English translation) – is the flag-ship store for Chef Jun Toyoda (his best known store being O-san in the Dixon Street food court). His latest venture is to introduce to Sydney a different style of tonkotsu (soup-base), moving away from the thicker soup bases which Sydney-siders are more accustomed to, to a thinner soup-base but with the same level of flavour- thanks to using the more premium (and expensive) marrow-laden pork shin bones to create the broth. Admittedly I’ve only learnt all of this after dining at Tontaro Ramen Honten this afternoon, only learning of these facts while fact-checking for this post. This explains a lot of things. Haaha.

But before diving deeper into the food, let’s back-track to the start of the experience….. Tontaro Ramen Honten is a canteen-style restaurant situated on Sussex Street, nearish to the Sussex-Liverpool Street intersection. As soon as you enter the store you’re greeted by staff behind a service counter; inevitably there will be first-time customers standing off to the side studying the menus (i.e. us), as the ramen choices are varied and plentiful, and unfamiliar to most (because of Toyoda San’s aims to introduce to us a whole new range of soups!). After knitting my eyebrows in confusion with the majority of the menu, I settled on the Seabura ramen due to the promise of extra pork fat in the soup ($16.50), while my wife ordered the Stamina ramen ($17).

After making payment, head to the left hand portion of the store and find yourself a table in the adjoining canteen style dining area. If you’re dining alone, you can elect to dine at one of the solitary dining booths (picture a polling booth with partitions to your left and right), designed for folks who just want to concentrate on their noodles (although you can fold the side partitions back, revealing your adjacent diner-  just like ‘Perfect match’….. “You’ve heard them slurp, now meet Contestant number 1!”). But for those who aren’t dining alone, you can elect seating from one of 3 rows of closely packed in tables.

Table water is a self-service station, and in less than 10 minutes the service staff bring-out your bowls of piping hot Ramen on serving trays, thanking you for your patience. Arigatou gozaimasu.

The soup is like super piping hot, so after blowing on it to cool it down, I took my first taste………Hmmmm ,at first taste the soup tasted just like any other tonkotsu I’ve had in the past and the ramen was the thin variety (our personal preference is for the thicker noodle). The protein which came with my dish was chicken, which had been diced into little cubes, so I guess you can say our first impressions were underwhelming. And I was really really hoping that I’d like it! The stand-out element to the dish was the texture of the bamboo shoots ….. Yeah, not a good sign.  But the one saving grace for the dish, was the fact that as the shavings of pork fat had a chance to melt into the soup, the tonkotsu flavour became richer and more complex (the pork fat at first were white flecks floating on-top of the soup). Eventually I did chase down pieces of the chicken, but unfortunately due to their size (you can almost describe them as morsels), they were overcooked and tough.

Seabura ramen

My wife’s Stamina ramen was slightly different from mine, her soup was a darker colour, the chicken was shredded instead of being cubed, and her egg was a 60/60 egg (unfortunately cold at first) rather than the half hardboiled egg which I got. But even with those slight variations between our dishes, her evaluation was much like mine, the chicken was overcooked and tough, and the soup-base wasn’t remarkable. 

Stamina ramen

As we were nearing the end of our meals (almost 1.30pm) the place was at full capacity and there were people who had already made their orders and were hanging around waiting for tables to free-up. Not wanting to hog a table longer than necessary, we tried to eat faster but tell you the truth, this ramen actually felt like a bit of a chore to finish (also not a good sign, as when you have something good, you want more? Right? Not less. And the portions weren’t particularly large either). My wife commented at this moment that she had worked out why her dish was called ‘Stamina ramen’, as it took some stamina to finish it- so it wasn’t just me feeling this way!

In the end, you really can have too much of a ‘good thing’! Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t like the food was bad or anything but it was just unremarkable after the hype “A Deluxe Ramen Joint from a Chef with a Cult Following” was the title of the November 2018 Broadsheet article. When compared head-to-head with other Ramen stores, they just come off second, third, even fourth best! So for these reasons our end score is 3 from 5 stars (1.5 stars from 3 for Food (the soup was quite salty, so much so that we came home and downed a bottle of our home brew Kombucha, needing the acidity to break-down the salty taste in our mouths); 0.5 from 0.5 for Service (as all the staff were courteous); 0.5 from 0.5 for Atmosphere (as they were playing a Jamiroquai like album and the constant turnover of customers gave the otherwise plain restaurant life); and 0.5 from 1 for Value for money ($17 for Ramen is getting pretty exxy, considering it’s just chicken and not a premium type of meat)).

Would we be back again soon? Unfortunately I don’t think so. Because the next time we’re in the mood for Ramen, there are 3-4 other places on the top of our list before we’d circle back to Tontaro Ramen Honten.

Tontaro Ramen Honten- Sunday 17 February (3 Stars).

PH: (02) 8317 6375

10-11 339 Sussex Street, Sydney NSW

Mon-Sun 12noon – 3pm, 5.30pm – 9pm  

Sweet Things- Orange You Glad to See Me- Bubble Nini Tea

180/8 Central Park Avenue, Chippendale NSW

Hey, funny how typos can inspire? Accidentally missing the ‘C’ off Chippendale, resulted in Hippendale! And that is what Chippendale has become, the hip place to open up a shop which has a fresh new take….. This time a fresh new take on Bubble tea.

I’m not counting, but I think Bubble Nini Tea has been around for at least 6 months now, we first went there within the first few weeks of their grand opening, and it has since redefined the concept of Chinese Bubble tea stores. The usual Bubble stores, it’s usually a small shop with a long counter; a bunch of people non-customer facing hurriedly mixing people’s tea orders; loud Asian pop music; and a cashier chick who is just going through the motions of taking your order and then taking your cash. But here at Bubble Nini, everything is chilled and relaxed, an oasis of calm. (I was tempted to place an exclamation point after calm, but that would seem shout-y, so calm, you only get a full-stop). This is what I mean by calm- The music was a selection which was at a slower pace cranked only to 30% volume; the staff were nearly Zen-like speaking softly when taking our orders; the shop was large and spacious with nice wooden floorboards; the store was fresh smelling from all the fresh day-old flowers; and even the AC was more refreshing than other AC units, it wasn’t cold but just right! I swear, their cash register till even had a soft close cash draw! Ok….. I’m probably exaggerating, the service girl was just so chilled and relaxed that she probably slid shut the reboundable drawer with just the right amount of force to close it, without making a clatter. Ah! So Zen!

Tonight, after a heavy protein-laden meal, and an after-dark search for LP’s Quality Meets, a refreshing Jasmine tea with seasonal fruits (orange, green apples and pineapple) was exactly what the gastronomic doctor ordered! **Note: $6.50 for medium size. The drink is actually called ‘Orange You Glad to See Me’, and all other drinks have similarly creative names, some word-plays cheesier than others. Hehehe. What was served to us was just the right amount of sweet, the tea taste was pure, and the fresh fruits lent just enough of their natural flavours to lightly flavour the drink. All in all, a refreshing beverage. And when you’re done, and if you have some cutlery on hand, you can cut the plastic seal of the cup open to consume the fresh slices of fruit at the bottom. Yum!

Our first time at Bubble Nini Tea, we had a milk bubble tea (Exhibit B). The stand-out of Nini teas is the fact that their pearls are handmade, and flavoured like its accompanying milk tea flavour e.g. pink strawberry pearls for the strawberry milk tea, Matcha pearls for the matcha milk tea etc. Bubble Nini Tea definitely worth your while when you’re down in Hippendale!

Fogo Brazilia- Chippendale

Just like a backyard BBQ, only crunchy! ……. And my word! Tastier!!

Isn’t Chippendale an interesting place to be at?! All the redeveloped and gentrified back-streets, in my opinion the hip dining precinct to visit. Tonight we took ‘The Goods Line’ (a pedestrian walkway which connects Darling Quarter to Ultimo – by-passing Haymarket) and all of a sudden you find yourself on the Chippendale side of George street (it was almost as efficient as the Harry Potter Floo network- now I want a path that connects our apartment to my workplace! OK, in reality it was an approx. 20 minute comfortable walk from South CBD).

Heading out tonight we didn’t have a designated restaurant in mind, instead choosing to get across to Kensington St and Central Park and just seeing what catches our fancy. Although the night was relatively young (6.30pm), Spice Alley was already swarming with people – most of the seating area already occupied by the early dining crowd. Emerging from the other end, we poked our head into Koi Dessert Bar, I had entertained the notion of having a dessert deg for dinner (let’s just say since I started to consume sugar again, I’m a little bit addicted to consumables containing the white powder), but for 4 courses at $65pp and the menu wasn’t all that helpful in describing what you might get (menu contained a list of ingredient’s within each creation, but it actually didn’t specify if it was a tart, cake, flan etc), so it seemed like a bit of an expensive gamble. And perusing A1 Canteen’s evening menu, the lunch menu right next to it seemed more enticing, so we’ll reserve A1 for a later Autumn’s day. Thus we passed on the crowded Kensington Street, and headed into Central Park. 

To this day Central Park (CP) still amazes me, at the start of the decade when I was still a uni student at UTS (just across George St from CP) I couldn’t imagine a modern mall like CP could ever be a reality. For the handful of years I was a student there, what stared back at us who gazed across the road was first an abandoned Carlton Brewery, and then a really noisy and messy construction site. The first time when a friend had suggested to meet-up at Central Park, we had to shoot each other a number of back-and-fourth emails to clarify where they wanted to meet as I knew of a Central Park in NYC, but where is Sydney’s Central Park? And I was quite surprised to see when we eventually got there, that the rundown industrial estate and then hole in the ground, had become this green architectural marvel.

  Once we were inside CP, we took the escalator down to the Lower Ground level where first there is a Woolworths; but after a few propulsions of your legs the LG area seamlessly transitions from indoors to out – the LG dining quarter presenting you with a number of options. Your dining whims can settle on Ribs, Burgers (or both), Ramen, Korean Fried Chicken, Cuban food, or Brazilian Churrasco. Because Fogo Brazilia appears in my ‘100+ Sydney City restaurants to dine at’, I naturally tried to manipulate my wife’s ‘What do I feel like’ decision process by raising at this point that I hadn’t consumed any meat in the last week (afterwards I had to retract that statement, as I did have 3 meals with meat in them in the past 7 days. Ooops). But she did decide on Churrasco! Woohoo! Finally I get to try Brazilian barbequed meat, to this point each time I’d suggested to dine at Braza, the standard response had been “No, it’s too much meat”, she had dined there once with friends, while I could only long for it, smelling all the tasty grilled meats each time we walk past.  

But what I didn’t know about Fogo Brizilia until afterwards (as I’m fact-checking for this post), is that Fogo is a franchised casual restaurant chain. I wonder, if I had known this detail in advance, would that have swayed my desire to eat there. When did the concept enter our subconsciousness that dining at a chain restaurant became uncool? But after reviewing the display menu out at the front of their store, you’re greeted by the friendly South American service guy behind the cash register and you make your order/payment there and then – and armed with your table number you can elect to sit inside or outside. We remained inside and as we waited for our grilled meats, we took in the store’s décor- the stand-out being the orange stools which were suspended from the ceiling.

But while we were dining there, you can’t help but notice how quiet business was for Fogo. Although it was 7pm on a Saturday night, all the while we were there, there were only a total of 5 dining groups. We and another table were the only ones dining inside, thus the modern pop Spotify-like playlist had to play a larger role in trying to mask how ‘dead’ it felt in there. It was clear that the staff (everyone spoke Portuguese – so at least it was authentic) were kind of just hanging around, waiting to kick-into action when more people arrived, but at least for the duration we were there, the customers just didn’t come (all of CP seemed quite quiet, in contrast to how bustling Kensington St was). So as our orders went in to the kitchen, over the sounds of the music we could clearly hear the kitchen come to life, the fryer and grills sizzling away cooking our food (and we knew it was ours, as there just wasn’t anyone else there making orders).

As I had thought I was running a drastic deficit in my animal-based protein ledger this week, we opted for the Brasilia Platter to share, which included tasting portions of the Southern Spiced Beef, Margarita Chicken, Gaucho Chorizo, and Mojo Lamb. And served on the side- Fogo fries, a salad, and two sauces ($26).

And to ensure that we covered off the spectrum of all our four-hoofed and two-clawed friends, we also ordered the Pork Belly Camelo- served with jalapenos and cabbage slaw ($18.50).

The first to arrive was the Fogo fries (it arrived before the rest of the platter, but we treated it like an appetiser), served in this unique tall conical wire basket.

OMG! If you think Chicken salt on hot chips is the bomb! Wait until you try Fogo seasoning sprinkled all over your Fogo fries! I’m not sure what’s in it, but it tasted like garlic+onions+chicken salt all mixed together, but I’m sure there are other spices which I’m unable to name. But in short, it was AMAZING!

Next, the rest of the platter arrived. We’re a big fan of the platter, as the choice of chicken or beef, A or B is a non-factor, as you get a bit of everything! So if there is a platter on offer, 75% of the time we’re all-in on the food spread!  

So as we divided up all the meats right down the middle, we each had a decent amount of beef (3 pieces of the medium rare beef, which was perfectly tender and it was the delicious rubs which shone through, not to mention the dipping sauces went perfectly- we liked the red one over the green); the Chicken was also grilled perfectly and was full of flavour (half a piece each); the Chorizo was ok as well, like all chorizos are (half a sausage each); but for me, my favourite meat of the night was the Lamb, as I love the gamey taste of mutton- and  the natural flavours were still present although it was rubbed in spice (3 pieces).

And as we were dividing up our spoils, the Pork Belly arrived- a single elongated ‘square’ of crispy skinned pork.

For my wife, her favourite from the 5 different types of protein we consumed tonight was by far the Pork Belly! The pork had a really good crackle to the skin, a nice ooz-y fat layer, and a salty tasty layer of flesh. We were sharing tonight, but for any reason a group were to order dishes for themselves; I have to admit whoever orders the Pork belly, they would be eyeing-off their dining companions’ food in envy. As the portion size for the Pork belly was quite meagre at $18.50. After dividing up the belly equally, we each had 3 slices, and considering the sides was cabbage slaw and 3 jalapeño slithers, it’s hard not to conclude that there was a ‘Value for money’ disparity here. In contrast, the platter was so worth the extra $7.50, you’ve got 4 different types of meat, a large serving of fries, and side salad. This is why we always go with the platter!

In the end, Fogo reminded me of a backyard BBQ. But funny how these days when you refer to barbeque, the mind conjures up visions of American Southern barbeque- pulled pork, ribs etc. But Fogo reminds me of the good old backyard Aussie BBQ, some beef steaks, chicken pieces, lamb rumps, and snags sizzling on a hotplate. And the bowl of leafy green salad, which you add a little to your plate as you know your gut will thank you for it later. So Fogo is on-par with what a handy backyard ‘chef’ can cook up on the BBQ cooker with their tongs (which isn’t a bad thing, as more and more of us are apartment dwellers, who don’t have a backyard or BBQ to fire up). But where Fogos is a notch above the humble backyard BBQ, is the tasty spices which have been rubbed into the meat before being grilled. Everything that was offered up to us tonight was tasty, right down to the complementary table water (after I accidentally dropped a Fogo chip into my water. Haaha).

Our end verdict for Fogo Brazilia is 4.0 Stars from 5! (3 from 3 for Food (honestly everything was tasty! Absolutely cannot fault it at all!); 0.5 from 0.5 for Service (as the staff were super friendly, obrigado!); 0 from 0.5 for Atmosphere (It was pretty dead tonight, and a staff member was skipping songs which they didn’t like from the playlist which is a pet-hate of mine at restaurants);  and 0.5 from 1 for Value for money (as the platter was so worth the money, but the Pork Belly wasn’t much for a dish which was encroaching on 20 bucks)).

Would we come back again? Yeah, I’d say so, although it reminded me of a backyard BBQ (a very good one at that), but since we don’t have a backyard or BBQ, in the future whenever we feel like a backyard grill-up Fogo will be on the top of our list!

And as Chippendale is as intriguing as it is, we ventured around in the dark and located LP’s Quality Meats (it’s so strange, it doesn’t have much of a frontage). We will be back here real soon to try this next time- Southern style BBQ! And on our way back, Bubble Nini Tea was still open (closes at 8.30pm), so we got a drink to go-  hydrating us for our floo network trip back to South CBD.

Fogo Brazilia- Saturday 16 February (4.0 Stars)

PH: (02) 8096 5157

Lower Ground, the Dining District, 28 Broadway, Chippendale NSW

Mon-Wed 10am – 10.30pm

Thurs – Sat 10am – 11pm

Sun 10am – 9pm   

Chicken & Vegemite Pasta Recipe

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

500g Chicken breast fillets

500g Bow tie pasta

1 Brown onion

½ Cup frozen peas

250ml Thicken cream

2 Tablespoons Vegemite

¼ Cup shredded Tasty cheese

Directions:

Step 1: Cook pasta according to packet directions, then drain and set aside.

Step 2: Meanwhile, prepare chicken and onion by dicing chicken into bite sized pieces and onions into small squares.

Step 3: Heat cooking oil in saucepan before stir-frying onions for 3-4 minutes until softened. Then add chicken and stir-fry for an additional 7-8 minutes until the chicken is no longer pink. Then add frozen peas and continue cooking for a further 3-4 minutes.

Step 4: Add cream to chicken and onion mixture and bring to a bubbling simmer, before adding the 2 tablespoons of Vegemite. Cook, stirring until Vegemite has blended itself into the cream. Then add drained pasta to the pan. Stir to combine.

Step 5: Remove from heat, adding the shredded cheese to the pasta . Then serve, dividing among 4 bowls.

Comments:

The first time we tried this dish, it was on Australia Day (quite fitting, don’t you think?). We cooked this recipe several times until we got the quantities just about right. Two tablespoons of Vegemite  is the right amount if you want to taste the Vegemite flavour, without being too overpowering.

Please feel free to add more or less of the Vegemite to suit your taste! Enjoy!

Audiobook review- The Girl on the Train

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:

https://www.audible.com.au/pd/The-Girl-on-the-Train-Audiobook/B00S1R1VKM

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:

https://www.audible.com.au/pd/Gone-Girl-Audiobook/B00FEZN51C

And my all time favourite ‘Flawed protagonist’ is LAPD’s Harry Bosch, but I’ll leave that discussion for another day…….