Sunday, April 5, 2015

Salon post: The Girl on The Train becomes Train Wreck Girl for this reader

I finished The Girl on the Train Friday. Plot focuses on Rachel who travels by train, looks into yards and windows,  and vicariously imagines others' lives until one day she sees a scene that disturbs her fantasy. A woman then goes missing. Subsequently Rachel insinuates herself into the investigation while simultaneously harassing her ex-husband and his new wife.  I listened to Girl on Audible every chance I had, often in the car, right to the last word.  I was obsessively into it -- even as I had guessed some of the outcome earlier.
 Much has been made of the "unreliable narrator" device. Rachel, the main voice, is a drunkard who experiences blackouts.  Worked for me.
And whether or not one liked the narrator, Rachel, and thus liked or didn't like the book. Not a concern for me. Before I knew this was even an issue the book provoked for some, a friend at work said she loved Rachel. I was taken aback. I didn't love her -- hadn't even thought of liking/disliking , let alone loving/hating her -- and had to think about what I felt. Kind of indifferent although I would not want her as a roommate, friend, ex or ex of current partner. Sure of that.
What struck me was how boozy the book is. Rachel cannot not buy those two bottles of wine, not covet her tins of gin or hide alcohol from her roommate. The descriptions of her drunkeness, the messes she makes, the blackouts she endures, and the shame she feels  and the very, very bad decisions she makes over and over again transform her for me from the girl on the train, to the train wreck herself. She may be rubbernecking (as the police describe her actions), but so am I.  I'm vicariously witnessing a disaster  in the making with each section listen to. And like an observer who has stumbled on the scene, I'm a bit numbed, but also fascinated.
That said, the book this most strongly evokes for me is not Gone Girl, (as it has been compared to) but rather a much older book, Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton. Hamilton is better known as the author of Gaslight, another book this loosely calls up.  Hangover Square was also booze-filled and full of poor decisions of a different kind.  It takes place in London on the cusp of World War II and the characters reflect the unsettled politics of its time.  When I finished that book, I thought of it for days -- haunted. Not so with Train Wreck Girl.
 The later thriller is but filler. Great for passing time. While you're going someplace else.

Other notes: Rereading Cloud Atlas;  Loaded Stephen King's Revival  from Audible on to listen to on Kindle.

14 comments:

  1. I really didn't like/care about any of the characters. They were all a little gross to me. I definitely didn't get Gone, Girl vibes either.
    Anurseandabook.com

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    1. As I said, liking or not liking didn't matter for me in this book. The plot kept me going -- and my somewhat morbid curiosity to see what knowingly foolish thing Rachel would do next.

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  2. I have been back and forth on this one. I think your review plus A Nurse and A Book's comment has helped me decide this is a no for me. I have so much on my TBR pile, why waste the time. Thanks to both of you!

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    1. Keep reading other reviews. You might find something that hooks you in.

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  3. So are you saying no for me? Initially, I think I remember you saying somewhere that it might be "up my alley" but not now? Is that what you're saying? :)

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    1. I think you'd like it. I did. But only in passing. In passing 's not so bad. It was good while it lasted. I just don't think it's going to be memorable for me.

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    2. And Brian, there's the element of rubbernecking -- of being curious to watch what Rachel can't help herself from doing next even though it's the worst next step she can take. It's definitely a thriller. A good thriller.

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  4. I was late to the train, so I'm forty-something in line for it at the library. Thank you for your honest review.

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    1. Wait and see what others think. I think it's somewhat overhyped, but still an interesting way to spend a few hours.

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  5. I might still get to it -- as a go-between on other reads. Though Gaslight sounds interesting too. I'll look it up. Nice review.

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  6. Gaslight was made into a movie in the 40s --- well before my time -- with Ingrid Bergman and Angela Lansbury. The movie is responsible for the term "gas lighting" which means to connive to convince someone they are crazy. Great old film.


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    1. Interesting term. I hadnt heard of the movie, so thanks. One to note.

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