End Date: August 27th
Author: Paula Hawkins
Genre: Mystery & Suspense
Pages: 336 (hardcover)
Selected By: BillMo
“Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. 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 goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?” – from Goodreads.
This book was very fast paced and kept me wondering in anticipation of who could be the culprit. I didn’t feel like I should give it more than three teacups even though I did like it. There was hardly anyone in the story that you could like – or at least there wasn’t a main character that you could like. I’m going to take a moment to discuss what I don’t like about our main characters:
- Rachel – I spent most of the book saying, “You idiot. Put down the drink and step away.” I have never been addicted to anything before so I have a hard time sympathizing with Rachel. She is very cognizant of what she is doing and that it’s wrong but a lot of the time she doesn’t care. Also, if my husband ever cheated on me I would have nothing to do with him. All she seems to want to do is get him back. She seems to find her way by the time this is all over but for me it’s a little too late. She wanted to insert herself into things that she didn’t need to be in. There is something that she does that had she told the truth (while leaving out her imaginary friends) could have been more helpful than hurtful. But no, she acts like a friggin’ idiot.
- Tom – He is psychologically abusive. He is a preppy little liar that thinks he is the center of the universe. The end.
- Anna – The other woman. She was just awful. There is nothing about her that I could like from the beginning. She loved being the other woman and is just a whore-able person. 🙂
- Megan – I needed her to be stronger. She was too flighty and was always in search of something. It didn’t matter what or WHO it was she just needed to have something going on at all times. She also states getting a rush off of having power over someone. I don’t think that this is a very good quality to have. I’m just saying.
- Scott – Part of you really wants to like Scott. It is said by another character that he is abusive in a way. Examples looking at Megan’s search history on her computer and checking up on her. Well if I was married to an adulteress then I would probably check up on her too. He is kind of scary and I can’t like him either. There’s more to these feelings but I’ll let you see for yourself.
- Kamal – I did like him more than the above named but there is something he does that involves him taking advantage of another. He should know better especially with the profession he is in.
You find out in the story that one of the characters is unable to have children, a condition which distresses her greatly and one which brought to light a good point, which is paraphrased in this novel as:
“Women are still only really valued for two things – their looks and their role as mothers.”
I think a lot of people in this world may actually feel this way. It makes me very sad that our world would be so small-minded but I have heard the awful things people say so a part of me does believe that there are those out there who think this way. I do not think that this statement is true and when I read it, it made me sad that Rachel would feel this way or that she cared that people think this way.
The only person in this story that I could understand was Cathy. She was sensible and wanted to be helpful. However she wasn’t one of the main characters. Instead you get stuck with five terrible people with no real stand up qualities and a sixth person who’s fairly meh.
Now saying all these terrible things about the main characters I would still recommend this book if you don’t have anything else pressing to read and just want a mystery to lose yourself in for a while. Do keep in mind some of these characters my make your blood pressure rise so maybe have a nice cup of lavender or chamomile tea on hand while doing your reading.
BillMo’s Favorite Character(s): Cathy. She was sensible and wanted to be helpful.
BillMo read the Amazon Kindle version of this book.
Let me start by saying that I dislike this vein of writing. The novel is well constructed, but I find it hard to get behind a Gillian Flynn type of novel when you have absolutely no hero or heroine. Yes, there is a dark side to humanity, but to only focus on this and as if there is no good in people whatsoever is a bit disturbing to me. I found that I held so much disdain for each of the characters, it was very hard for me to continue on to finish the book. Initially, I did feel sorry for Scott and even in the end I could feel for him and understood his reaction but did not appreciate.
Ultimately the story focuses around three dysfunctional female characters in Rachel, Megan and Anna, who I’ve dubbed, the Drunk, the Whore and the Idiot respectively. To varying degrees each woman is codependent, self-absorbed and damaged beyond repair. If the author is attempting to prove that we are all damaged in some way, she did it in spades. In fact, I wish each character alive and in my living room so I can give each a sound thrashing.
Starting with the Drunk. While her being a blackout alcoholic is a sad state of affairs, I could find no empathy for her. The loss of the possibility of having a child is devastating to be sure, but to let yourself sink into drink so far that you must be told how things happened is by far the stupidest thing you could possibly do. This doesn’t change your situation, in fact, as the story goes on, you see how it negatively affects her life and situation. She is so completely off her rocker, she imagines a life of people she doesn’t know but sees as she passes their home on the train. Rachel has created this embellished perfect life for these people and even has convinced herself that she really knows them to the point of intervening in the investigation of the disappearance of the woman, Megan. Is there even a reason to delve into the foolhardy, self-important way she jumps into her “investigation” to prove Scott innocent? I understand that alcoholism is a disease, once you fall into it, it is hard to extract yourself from it. However, she allows her alcoholism to control her to the point of losing her marriage, her job and quite possibly her sanity. The only kudos that I can give to this extremely misguided character is that she did seek help for herself, even if she did it under the pretense of investigating Dr. Kamal Abdic.
As for the Whore, there is absolutely no redeeming quality about this woman. She allows herself to sink into despair due to the death of her brother, making one foolhardy mistake after another. However, because of her good looks, she feels she should be able to have what she wants when she wants. She’s nothing more than a spoiled brat who cannot stand to be told no or to be rejected. There is no pleasing her. Scott is “smothering” in her imagination, but he showers here with the attention she craves. What it really boils down to is that she gets bored easily and is on to the next conquest as soon as she can manage it. Unhappy in her marriage she attempts to seduce her therapist and then yet another man. Could the author written a character with lower self-worth or self-esteem. Oh, I think that she can.
The Idiot is a good attempt at making an even worse character than the Whore. In fact, she is so shallow that she makes the Whore look a better (I’m talking marginally). She knew the man she became involved with was married to someone else, did she care? Absolutely not, because it was what she desired. She displaced the Drunk, taking over her marriage and marital home to only act like a victim most of the book. She is so self-obsessed she can’t be bothered to think that the Drunk was on the street other than to harass her. Anna doesn’t even grasp the concept that she moved in on a married woman’s husband, how would that fair for her? What does that mean to his fidelity to her? Oh, that’s right, she’s just darn hot, no one would dare not pick her over anyone else. She couldn’t fathom that Megan and even Rachel in all her screwed up drunken mess may have something about them that would make them attractive to someone else.
While I despised the female characters so, the male characters are no less damaged. Scott is a bereft man, but he’s not without his flaws. He becomes violent when things do not go his way and it makes sense that he would become angry when his wife confesses something that is biggest slap in his face of infidelity. Now, he didn’t have to become violent, but honestly, I’d have choked a b**** too. Yet he had the ability to walk away, find a person who was genuinely a good and kind person, not one he barely knew in all their years of marriage. As for Tom, the Drunk’s ex-husband and the Idiot’s current husband, there is something smarmy about him that you can’t place your finger on throughout the novel. Yet, somewhere before the story progresses there is a moment where I feel the depth of his insincerity and maybe the hint of something more sinister. Finally, there is Dr. Kamal Abdic.
Of all the male characters, he’s steady but only falls so far under the spell of Megan. He understands his professional responsibilities and the fact that transference is a very real thing that Megan is possibly feeling toward him.
All in all, I it wasn’t great and I had to fight my way through to the end, and that is more because of the characters, not the writing style. So, she’s not a terrible writer. I’ve read far worse, but I think the author may have intended for us not to root for anyone. If that’s the case, bravo, she did it in spades.
Esbe’s Favorite Character(s): Dr. Abdic… maybe.
Lady Esbe read the Riverhead Books hardcover version of this book.
I don’t typically read this particular style of book. You know the one, the Gone Girl style, where you find as you go along that everyone is positively loathsome and by the end you find that they’re all guilty in their own way; books whose authors seem to want to make the statement of: “Don’t jump to conclusions about people and their situations, because deep down, we’re all assholes.” And Hawkins nailed it.
This is the most unlikable cast of people I’ve read about in a long, long time – so much so that I have to assume that the three-hundred pages of pure pathetic must have been intentional. It had to have been. The author is clearly talented, as the pace of the book is excellent and, even though I had pretty much guessed what was going to happen at 40%, I still wanted to know the details – primarily the how of it. And the catalyst for it all was something I had not expected, though it didn’t add much to the overall story by the time it was revealed.
“I catch sight of these discarded scraps, a dirty T-shirt or a lonesome shoe, and all I can think of is the other shoe and the feet that fitted into them.”
But these people. These bloody awful people. There isn’t a one among them who doesn’t see themselves as some sort of victim and isn’t dripping with a form of co-dependency. I don’t want to give away too much, so forgive me if a few of my character analyses come across as a bit vague – it’s thoroughly intentional… this time. 🙂
My god, these women. I actually had to text BillMo halfway through to tell her, “The pace is good, but I can’t stand being in the heads of these women! They’re just pathetic!” And they are. Pathetic. This is a pretty harsh word, right? And for maybe the first couple of chapters you feel badly for them: oh, poor addict, she can’t help herself from destroying everything she loves; aw, poor little artist, she just wants to feel passion, to be inspired; oh, you poor housewife, your rival just won’t let you be happy. But after the first introductory chapters, your opinion swiftly changes, and you realize they all are probably suffering from borderline personality disorder, they’re all addicts in their own way, and they’re all…
“I was a mistress of self-reinvention. I didn’t know what he was on about at the time, I thought he was putting me on, but I’ve since come to like the idea. Runaway, lover, wife, waitress, gallery manager, nanny, and a few more in between. So who do I want to be tomorrow?”
Rachel is a drunk. And that’s about it. She was a drunk when she got married, and she became a full-blown alcoholic when the path she had wanted her life to take became unavailable. As with most addicts, none of her actions are her own fault; oh, she bemoans her miserable existence, but she can also explain each one away: she’s not loved, she’s alone, no one gives her a shot, she didn’t get her way, her life sucks, blah blah. And, as with most addicts, she isn’t content to ruin only her own life – no, she has to drag others down with her, some simply by clinging to them and others by forcing them to participate in the fantasy world she’s created in her own head. In retrospect, her ex-husband’s treatment of her during and after their marriage was, shall we say, less than ideal, but her own escape into fantasy is just as horrid, especially when she begins dragging other real-world people into it.
Megan isn’t any better. Oh, sure, at first she comes across as the free-spirited one, the hippie-dippie artiste flitting like a fairy through her life. But the reality is that she’s living a fantasy, too… and has been for years. Her fantasy is one of denial, of refusal to admit to her past and accept what she’s done, and it seeps out from between the cracks in a violent, hungry, insatiable way. On the surface, she simply appears to crave attention, but I think what she really wants is to be consumed. In a strange way, I think Megan’s story had the happiest ending she could have hoped for – she had floundered through life for over a decade, trying to die, wanting to die, and yet, despite all the odds, she just.kept.going. Until the moment when she didn’t. And for her, I can’t help but think it was probably a release. A relief, even.
“I hate this, hate insomnia more than anything, just lying there, brain going round, tick, tick, tick, tick. I itch all over. I want to shave my head. I want to run. I want to take a road trip, in a convertible with the top down. I want to drive to the coast – any coast. I want to walk on a beach.”
Anna was actually the least likeable of all of the women for me. Her co-dependency is actually one of the most common types you see on a day-to-day basis: the woman defines herself as a wife and mother, and in a strange twist, like a snake eating itself, she needs to be a wife and mother in order to define herself. Throughout the entire novel, she gave me the impression of being nothing more than an empty space where a character ought to be, and other, stronger characters were able to just fill that space with whatever they wanted. She seems to want nothing more for herself than to be Tom’s Wife and the Mother of Tom’s Child, and she goes absolutely bonkers if anyone else tries to insert themselves into their perfect life – in fact, she is a grown woman involved in a relationship with a grown man, but she is violently opposed to any mention or proof of his having a life prior to or outside of their own union. Even the way she constantly had to have their child in her hands, on her lap, always right there within reach… it was more desperate than protective, more neediness on her part than a sense of nurturing, as if even her child wasn’t her child so much as an extension of Tom and, therefore, some piece of him that she could keep with her at all times.
“I have never understood how people can blithely disregard the damage they do by following their hearts. Who was it said that following your heart is a good thing? It is pure egotism, a selfishness to conquer all.”
The gents of the tale were better only in that I didn’t have to be in their heads with them. But as for being better people… no. They were horrible, each in his own special way. Tom is psychologically and emotionally abusive in his need to control the women he is with; he did it with Rachel, and he does it with Anna – he finds these weak women who he can dominate, who he can pull from the herd and sit in a home and make his. The catch, however, is that he’s like a child with a toy – once he’s got it, once it’s his, he loses interest. He had Rachel, and with her he had a seemingly perfect marriage – like a child, he had to break her in order to excuse himself for needing a new toy to play with. And the cycle continues.
Scott, on the other hand, is physically and emotionally abusive. On the surface, he’s got himself a pretty little wifey and a pretty little lifey, but the way he maintains that is with pure, unadulterated control. Hawkins makes no great secret of the fact that Scott’s blushing bride cheated on him in the past, and he uses this as an excuse to act as warden – he monitors her communications, he constantly has to know where she is, what she’s doing, who she’s with, he calls her friends, he smothers and smothers and smothers with his lack of trust. Even his way of interacting with her physically, a simply gesture of affection, is full of dominance; a hand laid over a throat, a too-hard squeeze of a shoulder. That, my friends, is not a healthy, happy, or sane way for anyone to choose to live.
“The sense of shame I feel about an incident is proportionate not just to the gravity of the situation, but also to the number of people who witnessed it.”
But I don’t want to leave you with the impression that I hated this book. I didn’t. It did move quite quickly and is well-written. This was just not my preferred style – I don’t typically read books in which I am unable to empathize or like anyone. But in the end, I gave it two cups (“It was Okay”) and burned through it in a single weekend; it’s a quick, fast-paced read, and I’d suggest it to those of looking for just that very thing – or for those of you who are fans of Gillian Flynn.
Elle’s Favorite Character(s): Honestly, no one, but I found Rachel’s flatmate, Cathy, and Megan’s therapist, Dr. Abdic, to be the least irritating characters in the novel. So we’ll call them my favorites.
Elle Tea read the Amazon Kindle version of this book.