Book Reviews

Why The Girl on the Train is NOT this year’s Gone Girl.

22557272[1]“Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. 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 offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

A compulsively readable, emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller that draws comparisons to Gone Girl, The Silent Wife, or Before I Go to Sleep, this is an electrifying debut embraced by readers across markets and categories.” ~Goodreads

The Girl on the Train (Jan 2015) by Paula Hawkins has had some superb marketing. The hype and anticipation for this psychological thriller seemed to be everywhere. On the heels of the Gone Girl movie and success of one of the most talked about books, comparisons were being made early on. And while there are similarities of the two books: intensity, creepiness, unreliable and unlikable characters, page turning suspense, they are quite different. (There will be no major spoilers ahead, but if you haven’t read either, it might sway you)

  • Amy Dunne in GG kicks butt as a woman, as a feminist and also as a deranged psycho. There have been few books that had me completely shocked when it comes to the unreliable character play.
  • When Rachel Watson’s marriage falls apart in TGotT, she falls into deep depression and doesn’t fight back for her life until the very end. Her unreliability is not because she is crazy it is because she is drunk most of the time.
  • She said vs. she said. The Girl on the Train is narrated by three women: Rachel Watson (Train girl), Megan/Jess (the girl observed from the train) and Anne (the other woman). No male POV in this one.
  • I went in blind with GG. Didn’t know about a twist. The “WHAT THE WHAT?!” moment in TGotT was just not that shocking to me. I didn’t predict what it was going to be because with three different narrators it was hard to pinpoint. I had a different theory as each narration switched. But I did have an inkling as the story progressed. In GG, I was floored, simply shocked. I remember that I paused, closed the book and walked around muttering to myself. My husband thought I was nuts.
  • GG is a story about a marriage completely unraveling. In TGotT, it was Rachel who was unraveling and she was an utter mess. Not calculating like Amy at all. She seemed to be a victim of herself much of the time.
  • The approach to the endings are completely different. Not better, not worse, just different…and that’s all I can say.

So did I like it? YES! Very much so. It had all the elements of that Hitchcockian thriller that I love. I couldn’t put it down and was up past midnight last night bulldozing through it just to see what was going to happen. It creeped me out and made me anxious. I think I locked the house up a second time just to make sure. The look into the human psyche was as fascinating as GG and even though the characters were unlikable, I enjoyed being crazy with them for several hundred pages.

I understand why new books get labeled in comparison to other best sellers. Primarily, for marketing but also for reader’s advisory. I do it everyday at my job in the library. It gives readers a way to find other comparable books with similar themes, tones, storylines that they enjoy. It’s necessary and helpful. But can the comparisons only let down the reader if they were expecting the same feeling? I also take it with a grain of salt because no two books make me feel the same way. They just can’t. And so I go in cautiously when new books are compared to ones that are my favorites. That moment in part two of GG that had my jaw to the floor is a challenging experience to duplicate. But that doesn’t mean The Girl on the Train wasn’t as equally well written or suspenseful. It was. In just a very different way. Also, a debut, so I can only imagine what Hawkins has in store for her fans in years to come.

*Thanks to Edelweiss and Riverhead for granting me access to a digital ARC. I was not required to post this review nor was I compensated.

17 thoughts on “Why The Girl on the Train is NOT this year’s Gone Girl.

  1. I loved Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, but I have to agree, Rachel’s whining and refusal to help herself worked on my nerves after a while. I don’t need Gone Girl clones, but if the comparison means more page turning thrillers, I’m all for it!

    • Exactly! Comparing books is helpful to reader’s advisory at work and for me as a reader to pick up books that have elements that I enjoy. I liked them both for how they were different not what they had in common.

  2. I’ve yet to read either — Gone Girl is currently sitting on my shelf, waiting to be read, which will hopefully be soon, (though I know what happens, but I’m sure that won’t make it any less amazing once I get round to it.) Your post has made me look forward to both a whole lot more!

  3. I recently added this book to my to-read list, so I’m encouraged by your positive review. Gone Girl is a pretty high bar. Like you said, GG does its twist so well and the effect on readers was so shocking. It’ll be hard for any other book to do the same. Am I amazingly crazy because I love Amazing Amy?

    • Hi Alex!! I’m glad that the post came off as positive because I wasn’t trying to trash it at all. GG is a favorite of mine and you are absolutely right, a high bar to be compared to which I wouldn’t want my book compared to if I had one as a debut. I think the marketing is helpful but might give readers an expectation like GG, which is hard to duplicate. And no, you are not crazy because I like Amazing Amy as well.

  4. I love your approach to this review! I haven’t read Girl on the Train, but I get so frustrated by comparisons to blockbusters like Gone Girl. They usually just lead to readers being let down because you really can’t duplicate the experience they loved while reading the first book.

  5. I agree and I also disagree. I think Gone Girl is its own kind of brilliant and most books will struggle to live up to. I also think that whilst TGoTT is completely different and not nearly as shocking, it has a similar tone and a similar narrator. Whilst Amy is a complete psychopath and Rachel is merely ill, I do think they were both loose cannons whose actions affected everyone around them. Readers who enjoyed one will definitely enjoy the other, in my opinion.

    I LOVED this review by the way. Very interesting thoughts.

    • Great points! I do think they had much in common as genres go but maybe being called this year’s GG was a bit of a stretch. And I should have said in the post that I am glad they are not the same. Who wants to read a copycat? Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  6. This is too funny – we are on the same page! I have a post set to go up on Friday that puts Amy(Gone Girl) up against Rachel (Girl On The Train). Its mainly just a fun post but it is crazy to see that you had very similar thoughts here 🙂 Ahhh books… what would we do without them?

  7. Pingback: Over-rated?: The Girl on the Train | Bookish Tendencies

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