I started reading this book mostly to discover what the hype was about after hearing people praising it and finding my colleagues at Foyles talking about the plot in hushed tones.
Those looking for an eloquently written book deserving of maximum high brow literature success, I doubt you’d find that in this book. For me, the writing wasn’t the highlight of this book, but it was made up for in other ways.
However, I zoomed through this book in three days in between working and sleeping. The final hundred pages were utterly compelling and by this point, I was completely absorbed in Hawkins’ narrative. In between reading sessions, I was finding myself constantly thinking about returning to this book because of how thrilling this book was in my opinion.
The role of the unreliable narrator is one that is used a lot (maybe too much you could argue) to add another layer to a plot that is perhaps not all it seems. In The Girl On The Train, it worked perfectly to provide a background of intrigue and surprise throughout its pages. I loved not knowing everything the narrator did to add to the thrilling aspect of this book and start to make you think whether the events recalled are fiction or truth. The plot and this narration is ultimately what keeps you reading.
My only problem was that I found the main female characters quite pathetic and part of me began to think about the sexist implications of the female representation, especially with the wide power difference between the men and women it seems. I found at times the female characters never got quite past their stereotypes, which I found quite problematic.
Despite this, however, the saving grace in terms of female representation is arguably the themes the book explores, such as domestic abuse, marital abuse, pregnancy, miscarriage, alcoholism and emotional turmoil. From multiple perspectives, this book provides a great starter and some awareness for conversations around these important topics, which is in some ways refreshing to see these topics tackled without adding some blame around the female.
In summary, I feel that some people would find some issues with this book, whether its the narrative style or the feminist (or lack thereof) representation. However, for the sheer pleasure of reading and reading something that completely absorbed me, this is a book I would recommend and I thoroughly enjoyed reading, even if it was for just reading something a little different to my usual reading list.
I give it a 4 out of 5