The Girl on the Train has been one of the most hyped-up books of 2015; having comparisons with intense psychological thrillers like Gone Girl. But let me just get one thing straight: it’s not the next Gone Girl. That’s false marketing/word-of-mouth. Yes, both had unreliable narrators, both revolved around a murder, but where ‘The Girl on the Train’ fails terribly is in its character design.
Plot Synopsis (taken from Goodreads):
“Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?”
My Take on the Book:
Don’t get me wrong, I really liked reading this book (to some extent). I love meself some “whodunnit” stories, and I was glued to it for two days straight. I couldn’t put it down.
But there are two reasons why it was such a page-turner for me:
- It was undoubtedly an engaging read. Although very predictable (I had to literally dumb-down myself in order to maintain that element of surprise for the big “killer-reveal” moment) but nonetheless it kept me on the edge of my couch as it had a really fast-moving plot. I don’t mean to sound crass but murder mysteries are FUN!
- I wanted to get it over with. I was 100 pages into the book when I truly started to hate the characters and I was just too invested in the story by then that quitting was just not an option anymore.
Every single character in this book is AN ASSHOLE! In Gone Girl it was different. Nick and Amy KNEW they were assholes! They were confident in their assholeness! Even though we loved to hate them but we still sympathized with them (on some level).
In ‘The Girl on the Train’ everyone – and I mean EVERYONE – is just horrible. The three female leads are mean, worthless, dull, pathetic selfish people who have no self-esteem and they always act like they are such damsels-in-distress. As for the male characters, when I think of them only two words come to my mind: disgusting pigs. I wished all of them were dead! You know you’re not reading a great book when you so deeply desire that everyone in it just jumps off a cliff.
Now I come to my main point.
As many of you know, a good book is like a building which is built up on two strong pillars: a great story and great characters. You can’t just take one out and expect people to love that infrastructure. That building will fall apart.
The Girl on the Train was somewhat enjoyable because of it’s story, but because of it’s poorly developed characters it just lost all credibility to me.
So for the writers out there, I would seriously advise you to read this book, because it is like attending a workshop on “How NOT to Write Your Characters”.
A lot of people loved this book and gave it 4-5 stars, and maybe you’ll be one of them too. But for me if I can’t empathize with the people you’re writing about, if I can’t fall in love with AT LEAST one character, then that whole experience was simply a wastage of time.
2 out of 5 Potahtos