The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins, Riverhead, 2015

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

2.5 Stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Book – The Girl on the Train

Everyone at some point in their life has fallen into despair. Perhaps we have all experienced a moment where we want to lapse into oblivion and forget everything awful that ever occurred. When there is no hope, there can only be a dark, deadly, void.

From the moment I picked up Paulina Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train, the main character intrigued me. Here is a woman, Rachel, an alcoholic divorcee, unemployed and unable to have children. She is prone to blackouts and has deep psychological issues. Her husband, Tom, left her for sexy Anna, a younger woman, with whom he has a baby. Now the new happy couple lives in Rachel’s old house, a house she passes every day as rides the train into London, to a job which she no longer has.

Just a few houses down from her old home lives another couple: a young, beautiful pair, into whom Rachel puts all her feelings of hope. Now here is a truly happy couple. She doesn’t know their names, so she builds a life for them in her own head: a perfect life, calling them Jess and Jason.

But then Jess goes missing. Where did she go? What happened?

Little by little, ugly truths are revealed. Jess’s real name is Megan and her husband’s is Scott. Everyone in the book is a suspect, especially Scott, Rachel, and even a ham-handedly placed “red-herring.”

An Imitation of a Better Book?

This book has been compared to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, and it should, for there are similarities.

–The word “Girl” is in the title.

–A supposedly perfect married couple and a blonde, possibly pregnant, wife goes missing and the husband is accused.

–There are crime groupies (In this case, it’s the main character).

–Use of first-person-present tense and unreliable narration that alternates from character to character to add a sense of confusion.

–A supposed critique of upper-middle-class marriages.

But while Flynn’s writing is gleefully over-the-top, her characterization rapier-sharp and spot on, The Girl on the Train is self-indulgently mopey. At first I felt so bad for Rachel, a woman callously screwed over by life. But does she shake herself off, say “Eff you haters!” and make things better for herself? No. She just whines and drinks and sulks. And while she has every reason to be angry with life, at a certain point it’s just too much! She makes for a very unlikeable character, and not in a good way.

That is the major difference between Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. While Amy is irrefutably an evil, messed-up person, she takes control. Shit happened to her, but she is no victim. She will rule her life by any means necessary. Psycho stuff, for sure, but hell of an entertaining read. Perhaps Amy is not the perfect ideal of feminism, but she is a not someone who lets people screw her over. Rachel is just a sad-sack of misery, she should have just left town and moved on. I’m not an encourager of suicide, and Rachel was leading down that path, so it’s no fun to watch.

Weak Female Characters

Actually, in “The Girl on the Train” every woman is just there, saying, “Woe-is me! There’s nothing I can do about life, but pout and pine or do really stupid things and make it worse.”

Woman A: “My life sucks. It’s my ex-husband’s fault. Why did he make me so unhappy?”

Woman B: “My life sucks. It’s my husband’s fault. Why can’t he make me happy?”

Woman C: “My life is starting to suck. I’ll wait for my husband to do something about it and if he doesn’t, then I will…Maybe. But I’ll give him lots of chances first.”

The one character I felt awful for was Scott, the missing girl’s husband. 

If male-imposed misogyny was the theme of this book, then it failed. There was only one male who was a real woman-hater in this. The rest of the women-haters were the women themselves.

This book was popular enough with readers to become a motion picture.

I was conflicted about it. The ending is a major reason why.

Spoilers Ahead

The first half of this book is quite entertaining, with the plot zig-zagging and coiling to keep you guessing. But halfway through, the first mystery is revealed, and now instead of wondering what happened, it’s all about who did it.

I expected a twisted, dark ending, something on a par with Susanna Moore’s In the Cut. After a month of reading Agatha Christie, I was in the mood for a modern murder mystery with shocking revelations.

However, the ending was so predictable. The villain just sits there and does that “Let me tell you what I did and exactly how I did it” routine that just annoys me.

The crime is “solved” and the killer is dispatched.

I thought it would have been a perfect set up to have Rachel sent to prison for Megan’s murder. There Rachel is, standing before a stopped train that is filled with bored commuters looking on as she stabs her ex-husband in the neck in front of his shocked wife.

The way Anna was written, it would have made sense if she accused Rachel of being the killer. Anna had tons of documentation of Rachel’s drunken harassment and stalking. With a little bit of ingenuity, the real killer would have gotten away with it, albeit still dead. And poor Rachel would have suffered the consequences. Now that would have been an ending. 

Opinion of Girl on the Train

I listened to this mostly on audio while also reading it on the Kindle. Perhaps it was the soothing British accents that made this book tolerable instead of a wall banger. It’s one of those bestsellers that everyone is reading, and might even be a major motion picture in a couple of years.

To a certain extent I liked it, at least the premise, but there were many problems with the execution, so it’s a mixed rating.

April Fool’s Day by Jeff Rovin

April Fool’s Day, Jeff Rovin, Pocket Books, 1986

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

3 Stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Book – April Fool’s Day

Jeff Rovin’s April Fool’s Day is an adaptation of the 1986 slasher pic that was loosely based on Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians/And Then There Were None. But while Christie was a master of characterization and suspense, April Fool’s Day —the book—just doesn’t compare, not to Christie’s book nor the ’86 film, starring Scream Queen Amy Steele and many other young B-movie actors from that era.

Mind you, it’s not a bad book; it’s one I’m happy to have read, but if I had to choose, I’d favor watching the movie again as opposed to re-reading the novel.

If you enjoy references to 1980’s pop culture like soaps like “Search for Tomorrow,” Heavy Metal cassette tapes, and tongue-in-cheek references to Ed Grimley, I must say, this might be an interesting trip down memory lane. It’s also noteworthy that despite rose-colored nostalgia goggles, it was not a simpler time, as some “kids” were doing the same things back then that they’re doing today.

The setting is an isolated island filled with hard-drinking, pot-smoking, partner-swapping, rich, young college students named Muffy, Evelyn (Skip), Arch, Harvey (Hal), Nichelle (Nikki), Chaz, Nan, Kit and working-class outsider, Rob, and each character has a unique role in this deadly tale.

April Fool’s Day Movie Poster

Opinion of April Fool’s Day

As the title is April Fool’s Day and it’s part of the horror/slasher genre, expect some violent murders and outlandish twists. Personally, as a horror film buff, I hated the movie the first time I saw it. But then upon a couple of re-watches, I realized how funny and dark it was. However there were missing pieces that never quite made sense. Those missing pieces were either never filmed or left on the cutting room floor. Reading the novelization filled in those missing pieces (especially about Nan and Skip), yet it took away much of the delight and silliness of the original premise.

SPOILER ALERT:

If I hadn’t seen the movie and had read this book when I was younger, I would have enjoyed it very much. But I’m old and judgmental, and you can’t create a crew of awful, rotten kids without (SPOILER) killing all of them off one by one in truly gory fashion like you would in a real slasher film (/SPOILER)

I’m glad I read this, but into the eBay box it goes to find a new home.