Reading Log: The Girl on the Train (Paula Hawkins)

Paula Hawkins’ novel of mystery and memory, The Girl on the Train, is a disappointment. Hawkins is a better writer than Gillian Flynn, whose best-selling Gone Girl must inevitably be mentioned in comparison (why else the echo in the title of Hawkins’ novel?), and she skillfully weaves the strands of the story together with stronger prose than Flynn does…but The Girl on the Train suffers from the cardinal sin of mysteries and thrillers: predictability. Every supposed twist is expected, every “surprise” turn well-lit and signaled. The narrator’s drunken unreliability and commitment to her disproportionate feelings of heartbreak are convenient mechanics for storytelling but the latter, in particular, quickly becomes unbelievable. The lack of interestingness makes the coincidence of connections—what should be a little knotty whorl of mystery and tragedy that we see exposed in isolation, the exposure of the threads that are inevitably and invisibly found if we dig beneath the surface—simply tedious. Skip this one.

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