Let me start by saying that I usually don’t read books on the New York Times Best Seller List. I’ve never read anything by Stephen King. I have not read The Di Vinci Code or the other books in that series. I had a copy of The Firm but I never read it and purged it when I moved to my current apartment. It’s not that I’m a snob. I believe that people should read what makes them happy. I’m happy when I’m reading challenging novels. However, I recently read The Girl On the Train by Paula Hawkins and I was very disappointed with it.
To backtrack, on the plane coming back from my vacation from San Francisco, I finished the book I was reading, Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, who recently passed away. I had been wanting to read it for awhile because it has a cult following. Geek Love is about the Binewski family that runs a traveling carnival “fabulon”. The mother ingested chemicals and radiation to give birth to a family of circus freaks including a boy with flippers, conjoined twin girls, a hunchback with an amazing voice, and a baby who has powers of telekinesis. I finished reading the book on the plane ride and even though it deals with some dark topics, I loved how it was a bold piece of fiction that took risks. It wasn’t a book I was ever going to forget and I loved how everything came together at the end.
The next morning at my mom’s house, I started reading The Girl On the Train. If Geek Love was a well written book, I found the Paula Hawkins book to be beige by comparison. The writing was serviceable and uninspired. I think the main problem with The Girl On the Train was with the girl itself, the main character Rachel. Rachel is a depressed, divorced alcoholic who lost her job in London and rides the train to London and back so her flatmate Cathy won’t know she lost her job. The train happens to stop most days on the street she lived with her husband Tom. Rachel becomes obsessed with another couple living up the street from her ex. She thinks that they are the perfect couple but then the wife Megan goes missing. Rachel becomes obsessed with what happened to Megan while sometimes stalking her ex Tom and his new wife Anna.
Part of my problem with the book is that Rachel keeps making bad decision after bad decision. She feels sorry for Megan’s husband Scott, even though he may have killed his wife. She’s not good at reading people and she ignores the police instruction to not come back on that street. Her flatmate Cathy is an enabler who won’t kick Rachel out, even though most rational people would.
I was surprised that none of the female characters were likable or relatable, considering that a woman wrote the book. All of them are neurotic and none of them have a career. Megan once owned a failed gallery and Anna always nags Tom about Rachel. Both Megan and Anna have affairs and Rachel sleeps with a suspect.
The best thing I could say about the book is that it was a quick read (It only took me about 3 days) and you can’t figure out what happened when Megan disappeared. I really have no idea why it became a best seller. All I know was that for days I was angry I had spent time reading the book. At least I borrowed the copy from my mom, so it didn’t cost me anything besides my time.
I am now reading The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton, who is one of my favorite authors. Undine Spraggs is definitely a strong character and I love the setting of NYC in the early part of the 20th century. I think it is the antidote I needed at the right time.