The Girl On the Train by Paula Hawkins

Girl on the Train

27th April,2015

Consensus : a very well written novel; unputdownable said Shakun; good characterization said the others. The psyche of an alcoholic is authentic somebody said.  The story is told in the first person by three women, and their narratives are characteristic, sharp and immediate in effect. The language is clear ,precise and uncluttered. Just right for the fast pace and leads through the twist and turns of the plot without confusion and obscurity. becomes nailbiting as it gathers final momentum and culminates in a dramatic finale.Very well plotted, with surprises and thrills all the way , yet events perfectly consistent with characterization and personality. The significance of events and conversations keep changing and newer patterns of meaning emerge as if an onion is slowly being peeled.

I wouldn’t like to go into detail here because that would be a spoiler ( this blog is  actually followed by some outsiders!!!) But a very well conceived thriller. Not surprising that it has become the rage and I am sure will be made into a movie very soon . Appears to be written for that medium and has all the hallmarks of a modern suspense thriller movie.

It wouldn’t be a spoiler to talk about Rachel, the girl on the train. And here I will express my very personal reaction to her . Rachel is an alcoholic unable to get over her divorce and feelings for her ex husband. She is quite intelligent and smart which is why the rest of the story sort of develops at all and she is the catalytic force of the plot. But I got fed up with her wallowing in self pity and misery . I understood that this  is why she became an alcoholic in the first place but  I was wondering why she had to  be such a loser  over an errant husband  in this day and age when changing partners in her society appears commonplace. Isn’t the possibility of betrayal a constant undercurrent in their lives ?  And when it happens people grieve and move on don’t they ? Unless they are very fragile mentally.

Wait a moment, is that a clue ?  And some more little things revealed in Rachel’s ramblings, her inexplicable amnesiac black outs etc etc.I was pleased to see  in due course , that I was on the right track . ( sounding mysterious because don’t want to be a spoiler but yes guessed ‘who dunnit’) .

Discussing her character and her disintegration as a person post divorce put all of us to discussing our favourite topic , the position of women in a patriarchal world. The Indian legal view of marital rape ( it doesnt exist) and how women are themselves their own worst enemies etc. The thing is , its all very well for us strong minded, educated and empowered ladies to say that women don’t have to put up with physical and mental abuse if they don’t want to. What we need to recognise , and Gurinder the sociologist was categorical on this, is that mental abuse is more insidious and hard to fight  and ultimately more damaging all round. Physical violence is a easy first recourse in subjugation. Deviously evil people can skip this step. People indulging in mental abuse  it are actually hitting at the very soul of a person. They are like vampires sucking  their prey of their self esteem , their will, their very self worth, the very essence of their spirit till the victims not only believe in their own worthlessness but actually become so. And its a horrific thing to see happening . And some people manipulate others coldly, calculatingly. Thats what the villain did to Rachel and you realise this with a rush at the revelation. Its what happened to Rachel to make her such a whining miserable character wallowing in her own humiliation… Imagine having to live with the knowledge that you have zero credibility with everyone that you know. Its a complete negation of personality.  To me that was the horror of the whole story and I felt sick to the core  and angry as well. As I confessed to the others, its a good book , but, nowadays I dont have the resilience to  witness one human   dehumanising  another  and not feel  sickened. Even if its fiction. Because it is there all around us, and its true and real. We cant say that it only happens in books.

To answer the question why are women  also ranged on the side of patriarchy and so hard on members of their own  sex :because they have been conditioned to take themselves at the devalued level believed in by diehard patriarchs.

If humans can descend to the pits they are also capable of the most divine and I think I would like to dwell on the more hopeful and inspiring aspects of humanity when I am reading fiction. Must be a sign of old age. I wont’t be seeing the film.

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One Response to The Girl On the Train by Paula Hawkins

  1. shakun maithel mandal says:

    Very well written Runa. However I differ in your understanding of the character of Rachel. There are people and very many people like her in real life. She is shown as a simple soul and yes very intelligent too. One can be intelligent and yet simple. Her character trusts implicitly . In fact one feels protective towards her and at least to me it was quite an eye opener to see how the mind of an alcoholic works!
    I would always wonder why can’t an individual fight an adduction? After reading this book I can empathize with an alcoholic to some extent.
    However I am eagerly looking forward to the movie. I am sure it will be as exciting as the book if handled properly!

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