Cliche and Underwhelming: A Book Review


Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. 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 goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?”


I had gotten an ebook version of this book a long time ago. Actually I think this was one of the first books I got on my Kindle app. However, it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I started to read this book and what started out as promising became increasingly cliche and underwhelming.

A lot of the book is dealing with unreliable narrators and points of view that switch every once in a while. Now for a thriller I would think that an unreliable narrator would be intriguing and would drive the suspense. However, Rachel’s blackout moments seemed merely convenient than intriguing. Rachel (our main protagonist) is a horrid drunk. She’s pretty much at the lowest of her life and is pretty much an alcoholic. She’s drinking about 80% of the time you read her chapters. Honestly I didn’t mind this at first. I sympathized with Rachel considering what has happened to her and so I just kind of went with it. Yet, the slow pacing of the novel made me increasingly annoyed and bored with her. To be frank, Rachel doesn’t really have much of a personality. I wouldn’t mind this if she stayed pretty neutral in terms of the story, but because she was such a strong part of it–I didn’t see any reason to stay interested in her.

All of the other characters were pretty cliche or archetypes, because of this the plot became incredibly predictable. There was nothing dynamic about any character and honestly once my sympathy left for Rachel, I really could care less about the rest of the cast. The only person I, sort of, cared about was the victim–but she had so little narrative that I just couldn’t keep reading for her alone.

The pacing of this novel was, in my humble opinion, pretty bad. The build up to the actual crime takes a bit too long considering I’m just reading Rachel’s drunken fantasies as she spies on two strangers as if she knows them. When Rachel becomes engrossed in the missing person’s case she wasn’t incredibly proactive and made really… jarring decisions. I think part of the problem was how much the point of view changed. There’s a lot of non linear storytelling, which I’m a huge fan of, but things move both too fast and too slowly for me to get used to it. I found myself switching back and forth to make sure I got my timeline in check which was incredibly inconvenient.

Now because of this, there was no suspense or plot twists. The plot twists and anything that could be suspenseful is pretty much given to the reader through exposition. It’s like the reader is not trusted to come to certain conclusions on their own which takes away a lot of the fun from a thriller (really, what’s the point if I’m going to be told the answer anyway). It hurt the pacing so much that when the big climax happened, I wasn’t all that surprised or wound up about it. I didn’t find myself rushing through the pages because of how quickly everything seemed to move. I just kind of felt myself… bored with the narrative.

Overall I found this novel to fall below the hype it was given. I might see the movie to see if it fares better, but I don’t have high hopes. I think the novel could’ve been a lot more interesting had we had a more charismatic protagonist and focused on one or two (not three or four) points of view. It gives the audience a lot more blind spots, but also keeps the mystery alive.

The Girl on the Train was written by Paula Hawkins. It is 325 pages long and was published in January 31st, 2015 by Riverhead Books.


2 thoughts on “Cliche and Underwhelming: A Book Review

  1. I’m always weary of books with a lot of hype, because I feel like a lot of them end up letting me down. I’m sorry this was the case for you!


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