The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

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Summary

Rachel’s life is the epitome of mundane. Each day her biggest excursion  is commuting to and from work on the London train. But unlike the other passengers , what thrills Rachel the most about her commute is gazing at the stretch of cozy Victorian homes  mingling along the tracks. Her favorite house, number 23,  is home to a beautiful couple who Rachel nicknames, Jess and Jason. During the few minutes the train stops for construction on the tracks, Rachel watches the couple as they relax out on their terrace and live out the promises of domestic bliss.

Jess and Jason represent everything Rachel has lost; her husband, her home, and most importantly, her sanity. However, watching Jess and Jason also gives Rachel solace that happiness still exists in outside of her own shattered world. That is, until she sees something strange happening on Jess and Jason’s terrace the following day.

Without a warning, Rachel finds herself mixed into a world where her own fantasies blend into hard, cold reality. She becomes a witness, but an unreliable one at that. Struggling against a streak of heavy drinking and violence on her record, Rachel desperately attempts to warn the police of everything she believes she has seen from her small window on the train.

Constantly shifting narration between three of the novel’s main female characters, the reader is provided a glimpse into the web of lies we tell ourselves and the tainted realities we live. Each woman uses her own unique, yet eerily similar experience to illustrate the boundaries the human mind. More than anything, The Girl on the Train, begs one main question:

How far we are willing to go in order to grasp at our own corrupt fantasies?


Memorable Quotes

“There’s something comforting about the sight of strangers safe at home.” (Rachel POV)

“And I’ve just got to let myself feel the pain, because if I don’t, if I keep numbing it, it’ll never really go away.” (Rachel POV)

“I am not the girl I used to be. I am no longer desirable, I’m off-putting in some way. It’s not just that I’ve put on weight, or that my face is puffy from the drinking and the lack of sleep; it’s as if people can see the damage written all over me, can see it in my face, the way I hold myself, the way I move.” (Rachel POV)

“Beautiful sunshine, cloudless skies, no one to play with, nothing to do. Living like this, the way I’m living at the moment, is harder in the summer when there is so much daylight, so little cover of darkness, when everyone is out and about, being flagrantly, aggressively happy. It’s exhausting, and it makes you feel bad if you’re not joining in.” (Rachel POV)

“It’s ridiculous, when I think about it. How did I find myself here? I wonder where it started, my decline; I wonder at what point I could have halted it. Where did I take the wrong turn?”  (Rachel POV)

“Who’s to say that once I run, I’ll find that isn’t enough? Who’s to say I won’t end up feeling exactly the way I do right now-not safe, but stifled? Maybe I’ll want to run again, and again, and eventually I’ll end up back on those old tracks, because there’s nowhere left to go. Maybe. Maybe not. You have to take the risk, don’t you?” (Megan POV)


Thoughts

First of all, I appreciate how engaging this book was right from the very first page. Even though I love reading, (I am an English major after all) sometimes I have a difficult time picking up a book and sticking with it. But with The Girl on the Train, I never encountered this problem. In fact, I began reading it while lounging around SFO at 3 in the morning! Despite being sleep-deprived and anxious for my trip, I was drawn into the crazy world of seemingly innocent train rides and man-made mayhem.

What I loved most about reading this thriller was experiencing the perspectives of the three very different narrators. Each woman is complicated in her own way; facing different, yet eerily similar, demons. Themes throughout the book range from abuse to motherhood, sexual power/politics to mental illness, and everything in-between. It is not a cheery novel for the slight of heart. In fact, it is a novel where the reader must be willing to get his or her hands dirty and, dare I say it, “take a ride on the wild side.”

Rachel is the main character and particularly unique one at that. She acts as both a passive and active force within the progression of the storyline as she transforms from watcher, into actor. When the reader is first introduced to Rachel, she seems somewhat normal. However, as  the reader becomes more and more acquainted with her stream of consciousness, it becomes very clear that Rachel has a conundrum of deep-rooted, complicated issues.

Rachel’s most notable characteristics are her alcoholism and  her fascination with watching people. So basically, Rachel is a voyeur and an alcoholic. Now, the only issue with describing Rachel as a “voyeur,” is that at first many of her watchful habits seem more innocent than the word suggests. In the beginning of the book, Rachel talks about simply watching the couple from the train because she wants their life. In that train of thought, what she is exhibiting is not voyeurism, but sonderism. However, as the story goes on, it is clear Rachel consistently straddles the line between being a voyeur and experiencing true sonder for the first time.

It begs the questions, what happens when we discover the tangled lives of others? Do we belong in their webs, or does each of us too stuck on our own paths to join another? Or we capable of fighting for the greater good, or are we too selfish to care? From cheating to murder and mayhem, The Girl on the Train, tugs at the very strings of humanity.

 

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The Name of the Star

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The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson



Summary

Louisiana native, Aurora Deveaux (Rory for short) travels to the bustling city of London to start her senior year at Wexford, a premiere boarding school, whilst her parents teach at a university in Bristol. As she acclimates to her new life at Wexford with the help of her new friends, Jazza and Jerome, a series of brutal murders hit London. However, these murders are far from ordinary as each of the murders mirror the notorious Jack the Ripper murders, and the perpetrator continues to elude the ever-present eye of the CCTV cameras.

What starts out as far-fetched theory suddenly turns into mass hysteria, and no one in London is safe. Rory thinks nothing of the murders until the night that she returns to her dorm and she sees a man that Jazza claims not to. Suddenly, Rory finds herself twisted into the fabric of an elaborate game with no way out. As she is forced to confront the danger of solving the classic game of “whodunit,” Rory delves into the darker side of London’s past.


Memorable Quotes

“Fear can’t hurt you,” she said. “When it washes over you, give it no power. It’s a snake with no venom. Remember that. That knowledge can save you.”

“I decided to deflect her attitude by giving a long, Southern answer. I come from people who know how to draw things out. Annoy a Southerner, and we will drain away the moments of your life with our slow, detailed replies until you are nothing but a husk of your former self and that much closer to death.”

“Keep calm and carry on. Also, stay in and hide because the Ripper is coming.”

“The English play hockey in any weather. Thunder, lightening, plague of locusts…nothing can stop the hockey. Do not fight the hockey, for the hockey will win.”


Thoughts

I picked up this book while wandering around Face in a Book (http://www.getyourfaceinabook.com/) and decided that the plot seemed vastly different from anything else sitting on my bookshelf at home, so I figured that I would give it a whirl. I started reading while I was on vacation in Carmel, and I was quickly drawn into Rory’s life at Wexford and her adventures in new country. Ironically, I began to lose interest as soon as the plot began to take off. As I kept reading, my disdain for the book grew. Around page 300, I was praying for the end.

The problem is, the reader should never be praying for the plot to pick up or the book to end. I firmly believe that it is the author’s job to keep the reader enticed and wanting more. That being said, (or in this case, written) The Name of the Star will not be on my list of books that I would recommend.

My main issue with this novel is that the author did not seem to utilize the setting and characters to the best of her ability. I would have loved if she would have taken more time to describe the buildings of Wexford or the city of London. Heck, I would have even been happy reading more about the weather. For me, part of this book’s allure was that it was set in London; a place I have always wanted to travel and immerse myself in, and reading this book gave me no further insight into the streets of London aside from a pub here or there. I think that if the author would have set aside time to describe the impact the city had on the events, the plot would have been far more interesting and cohesive.

In addition, there was little character development to be found. Rory begins as an interesting girl from the south who I desperately wanted to know more about, but as the book progressed  I felt as though she became more and more closed off to the reader. Perhaps this was intentional or perhaps it was not, but either way, I found myself lacking an emotional connection to Rory which therefore made the story a little harder to read through. As the plot moves forward, Rory suffers through many horrific and strange events, however, she does not reflect on any of it, nor does she even act remotely bothered.

Overall, this book was extremely disappointing and a struggle to finish, however, I really was a fan of the ideas and setting within it. Although I do not plan on continuing the series, I would test out a couple of passages to see if it gets better.