Wednesday, January 27, 2016
The Girl on the Train // thoughts on the book
I first heard about this book from a review on Postcards from Purgatory and was intrigued when the reviewer wrote "[the novels discuss] that childlessness - in two very different circumstances -- is a breeding ground for self-hatred and insanity." (The other novel discussed in the quote is The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty, which I haven't read.) Those lines piqued my interest so I placed a hold at the local library, only to stumble upon a sale at a local book store getting four books for $20 and ended up buying it (among others).
It's a pretty quick read and if you're interested in reading more there are summaries abounding all over the web (including in the review I linked to).
Initially, I was intrigued by the idea of childlessness breeding self-hatred and insanity. Having many children myself, and having them for pretty much all of my adult life, I don't really relate to the idea; however, I can see how the opposite can also be true. I feel like sometimes my children bring out the worst in me, or more accurately I show them the worst in me, which brings on the mommy-guilt like nobody's business. I love my children more than almost anything in this world (my husband beats them by just a hair, but he's sworn to me forever and someday, some far away day, my birdies will fly the nest), and I would willingly die to protect them from any harm, but they do drive me crazy sometimes.
Though, childlessness is a prominent theme in the novel, the theme that actually struck me most was how you can never really know a person. I've known this for quite a while now, but was impressed with how the author addressed the issue. The book is divided into character sections. We get snippets from the minds of Rachel, Megan, and Anna. The reader knows their minds but the other characters clearly don't. For example, the main character, Rachel, is struggling with alcoholism, severe alcoholism, and it causes her to act rashly at times, so we get her shame, guilt, and justification for behaving that way, which makes logical sense when reading from her point of view. But when we see the same scene from Anna's point of view, the whole thing looks completely different and often the two interpretations don't quite match up. This is done on purpose. We're supposed to question the motives, intentions, and sanity of these characters. Even or perhaps most especially in marriage.
Anna and Megan are married, to Tom and Scott, respectively. I was fascinated by the portrayal of those relationships. They are so different, yet both draw from the theme that you cannot fully, truly, know another person. Their thoughts. Their motives. Their trustworthiness. In the one instance, Scott is misrepresented in many instances by other characters, but it's his wife who ends up being most misrepresented; in the other instance, everything seems rosy, cozy, and fine, despite what seem like minor inconveniences. We know this because we get to see into the women's minds in a way that their spouses never do. Once events start to overlap, the confusion grows. We spend the most time in Rachel's brain, so we know her the most, but there is a point in the novel where I questioned her honesty with herself. She shatters her own credibility and even she questions herself, forcing us to question: how much can we trust our own selves?
I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone looking for an intriguing mystery.