My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Opening Sentence: She’s buried beneath a birch tree, down towards the old train tracks, her grave marked with a cairn.
This was my first Paula Hawkins book. I got it from a friend who said it will be off-putting but stick with it and it gets better. I stuck with it. I finished it. I’m still waiting for it to get better. There might be moderate spoilers in this review but I’ll do my best to keep them inconsequential.
This was Hawkins’ first thriller, I started off describing it as a ‘well written grey depression’, but I changed my mind as the story progressed and it became written in a one dimensional, boxed in style where the reader is given very little idea of a world outside of the story.
The story is written from the points of view of 3 female characters. The main character is an alcoholic woman named Rachel, whose barely existent life is in complete disarray, where the most important and interesting part of her day is looking out the window on the train she takes everyday to pontificate on the lives of complete strangers. Creating a world in her head where she has convinced herself she knows them.
The reason I don’t refer to Rachel as the protagonist, even though technically that’s what she is, is that it doesn’t feel like the book has any protagonist at all.
This book has NO good characters. There are bad people, and worse people, but not really any good people. All the personalities are highly flawed, unreliable, dishonest and very very messy. I felt like I could trust none of their depictions. The only character I felt empathy for was Megan, and I ended up caring just about her through the whole plot.
The leading character, Rachel, is in fact so flawed that it leaves the reader feeling hopeless. I have mentioned in another review that if I find myself annoyed with the main character I give the book a very low rating. But that wasn’t the case here. Though I found her devastating, I was hoping Rachel would turn a corner and clean herself up, get her act together, stand up for herself or anything that would portray her in a positive light. Pretty soon though, it is made clear that no such thing is going to happen. That the story actually is all about a pathetic, miserable and ultimately sad main character.
What I wasn’t counting on though, was how the whole plot would depend entirely upon her being a complete wreck of a human being. How her sadness,her interference, her desperate need to feel important and her complete mental instability, and her constant blundering around , would be the most damaging and driving factor of the story. More so than the “criminal” or “villains”.
As for the plot twists, I was disappointed by their predictability. They seemed to fit a little too neatly together giving the book a very limited feel. I found that the better versions to the story were quickly and easily dismissed by being Rachel’s theories. Anytime such a dysfunctional leading character thinks of them as a possibility, “could I have done that?” “could this be what happened?” did he/she do that?”, I immediately disregard that as a possibility. Which eliminated pretty early on, what I felt would have been better plot points.
I feel like I should forgive the writer this downer because this is her first thriller. But I don’t think I will be picking up another book from this author anytime soon.
1. “I have lost control over everything, even the places in my head.” (pg.18)
2. ” 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.” (pg.38)
3. “One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy, five for silver, six for gold, seven for a secret never to be told.” (pg. 65)
4. ” I was a drinker anyway- I’ve always liked to drink. But I did become sadder, and sadness gets boring after a while, for the sad person and for everyone around them. And then I went from being a drinker to being a drunk, and there’s nothing more boring than that.” (pg. 85)