The Girl On the Train by Paula Hawkins – A Book Review

I picked this book up based upon a considerable amount of buzz in my community.  I have to be honest, I nearly didn’t make it past the first chapter.  Our main character is Rachel, and in the beginning, the story is told solely from her perspective.  Because I found her so boring and, frankly, pathetic, I didn’t know for sure if I could continue.  But then It became very clear by the end of the chapter that she is a drunk, unreliable, and possibly deranged.  Though slow at first, once these characteristics arise, the book suddenly became very interesting and Rachel transformed into a figure I’ve never quite experienced in books.

In fact, I became so engrossed in the book I could hardly put it down.  Rachel is seemingly stalking her ex-husband and his new wife, has constructed a fantasy world for the people she sees in their homes as she rides the train, and is generally falling apart as she makes one awful, drunken decision after another.

A mystery begins, though, concerning some injuries she suffered during a blackout.  Plus, a very violent crime arrives, one tied to her ex-husband and a specific couple she fantasized about from the train.

The book is addictive in that it plays with timelines, revealing tidbits of information at different intervals and demands the reader put them together chronologically.  As the book progresses, it also offers other perspectives, specifically from Megan, the woman Rachel fantasizes about, and Anna, Rachel’s ex-husband’s new wife.  Through these various perspectives, you learn that none of these women are completely honest, and some of them are downright dangerous.

Near the end, however, the book completely lost me.  I won’t spoil too much, but Rachel, one of the most unconventional and original female characters I’ve encountered in quite some time, becomes totally beholden to the men in the story.  In fact, the entire story line hinges upon her ex-husband and the man Rachel fantasizes about from the train.  The women suddenly serve only to propel the plot, to act as tools of the men, and that’s a real travesty considering the magnificent characterization unfolding up to that point.

Slade House by David Mitchell – A Book Review

Much of the promotion surrounding this book touts it as a haunted house story, a work of horror.  However, it readily became apparent that it is nothing of the sort – it’s an unrelenting companion piece to The Bone Clocks.  In fact, if you haven’t yet read The Bone Clocks, I wholeheartedly recommend you read Slade House first.  It serves as an excellent introduction to that book’s general plot and tone.

Like The Bone Clocks, Slade House is fairly direct storytelling from David Mitchell.  Yes, he bends genre brilliantly to suit the story’s needs, and his ideas are inventive as well as captivating, but the writing isn’t necessarily difficult to read.  In fact, I rather like the fact that Mitchell is streamlining his style a bit.  Make no mistake, though, this is still an extremely creative artist who forges worlds masterfully.

Though a quick read, Slade House forces us to dive deeply into the lives of doomed characters, characters connected from one decade to the next, characters with no hope against the monsters hunting them.  But, as you well know, monsters always have hunters of their own, and I believe the reader will be satisfied by this tale’s conclusion.