Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Girl on the Train: Friday, February 17

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins is a mystery, suspense novel, published in 2014 by Penguin Random House, Doubleday Canada. In October 2015, work on the film began in New York City, the United States.

The author, Paula Hawkins, born in 1972, is a British author. She was born and raised in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe, 1980). In 1989, aged 17, she moved to London, England, and graduated with a degree in philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford University. As a journalist with The Times, she reported on business, and wrote a financial advice book for women, The Money Goddess, published 2006. She had written four books of romantic comedy fiction before she wrote The Girl on the Train. She is another example of an apparently sudden success, based on a foundation of hard work.

The book is written in a first person narrative and is told in the voices of three women, Rachel, Anna and Megan.  Rachel takes the same train to work every day, and fantasizes about a couple she sees on the journey. The events that take place, lead to a finale with a twist that many women will find cathartic.

I didn't particularly like any of these women, and found that by halfway through the book I was bored, couldn't care less about the story, and wanted to stop reading. I continued because this has been a highly-successful best seller in Britain and the United States and I wanted to understand why. Also, the teaser everyone has heard mentioned, that the ending has a psychological twist, tempted me to continue. The ending did explain why women love it, and why it is being compared to Gone Girl.

From a literary point of view, this book leaves a lot to be desired. It is written in simple language, with no words needing to be looked up in a dictionary. The characters are a little shallow, and not attractive. The men, Tom and Scott, especially, are forgettable. On the other hand, they are stereotypes, so perhaps didn't need to be developed further. Hawkins makes no secret of the fact that she considered market factors before writing The Girl on the Train, and she certainly succeeded in her goal of writing a bestseller. She was not thinking of writing a literary masterpiece.

It will be interesting to learn how her next book appeals to the market.

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