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The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – a review

I always think there is a danger when having read a couple of really good books back to back that rather than being third time lucky the next one is just going to be a let-down. That’s especially true if the third book is one that you are really looking forward to, as was the case with Girl on the Train. Well I didn’t need to worry, this was one of the best books I’ve read for ages.
Rachel travels on the same train every day into and out of London. Whilst on the train each time she goes past the same house and sees the same couple who she names Jess and Jason and in her head she builds up a picture of their perfect lives together. So far so normal, as we all do that kind of thing (don’t we?) Yet one morning she wakes up with no recollection of what happened the night before, and find out ‘Jess’ is missing. We then meet the other two narrators in the novel namely Megan and Anna and things become a bit more sinister.
I read The Girl on the Train over one weekend as I was gripped from the start. I felt the story moves along at an excellent pace, and had me guessing all the way through. The characters are that mix of normal, happy, sad, and weird that makes up real life, albeit with them dumped in a rather unusual situation. Rachel is clearly depressed and as we soon learn she is an alcoholic so therefore a very unreliable narrator. Throughout the novel you see how she is falling further and further into despair. There are many bits when you want to just slap her, but equally in parts you feel tremendously sorry for her as she tries to move on.
I liked the way the writing moved around from the three different viewpoints during different times in the story. Often this kind of thing annoys me as I feel it is done to be clever and rather than move the story on just gets very confusing, but that was not the case with this at all. It just added to the twists and the turns in the book. I would say it is a testament to the good quality writing that I wasn’t constantly having to go backwards and forwards checking what date I was at.
With hindsight I suspect one of the reasons that this book was such a draw was that there are actually very few characters in it. This helps build the suspense, as well as actually making you feel that you are seeing things through the eyes of the narrators, rather than getting a big picture. Therefore the ending comes as a bit of a shock.
I would thoroughly recommend this book and hope to see more from Paula Hawkins soon.

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The end of everything by Megan Abbott – a review

The End of Everything –  Megan Abbott

This was another kindle on the train read. The end of everything is a story about two children Evie and Lizzie who are best friends and spend all their time together. They are heading into their teenage years and their heads are filled with boys and clothes. Until one day Evie goes missing, taken by a family friend.

The story is told from Lizzie’s viewpoint, she obviously wants to find her friend and so starts playing detective. She begins to gets close to Evie’s Father Mr Vern who she describes with awe, and Dusty, Evie’s sister who is standoffish and threatening to Lizzie.

This was a quite good story, but it is difficult to review without giving too much away. Although some of the writing seemed to me to be a bit sloppy, ‘shimmery things shimmered’ for example. I did think this was a very thought provoking novel. Throughout the story you are never quite sure what the truth is. Its basis is in sexual abuse which is implied although never explicitly shown. The fact that it is all told from the viewpoint of the young girl gives an unusual perspective on the crime. Events are only told as she sees them, rather than what factually happened, and often you suspect that were she an adult witnessing the same things she would interpret them differently.

I thought in a way it called into question people’s judgements. The lines of right and wrong are well drawn, when the belief of love comes into the argument these lines can sometimes get blurred, and actions that are wrong can be seen as a consequence of affection.

Whilst I suppose the word enjoy is wrong in the context of this book, is it possible to enjoy a book where the undercurrent of sexual assault gives it a quite threatening tone behind the thoughts of a 13 year old? It was a good read. Some of it is pretty unbelievable, for example the wife of the man who abducts Evie sends him money when he runs out. Whereas some of it you only realise the motivation behind the character towards the end, this is especially true of how Mr Vern’s wife reacts to her daughter going missing. The 13 year old viewpoint also lacks a sense of belief in certain areas I thought but overall I think this book made a great train read (that could be the title of my next blog – books for the train!)

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