The Girl on the Train (Paula Hawkins)

The Girl on the Train

EVERY DAY THE SAME
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.

UNTIL TODAY
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?

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The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins has been one of the hottest book club picks around for a couple of years now. It is a thriller written from the points of view of three complicated, troubled women: Anna, Megan, and Rachel (the main character).

I picked this book to read because it has been so popular for such a long time, and I like to keep at least sorta-up on to date on these types of books, considering that I work as a library clerk. It makes it easier to chat with customers about different types of books, and make recommendations if I am well-read in more genres that just my favourite one or two. And lately, I’ve just been in a bit of a book rut so it was time to read a few outside of romance / erotica!

I liked the pacing of The Girl on the Train. It is an easy read that I got through in two sittings. I felt that the outcome of the novel was hidden for most of the novel, although I did suspect the killer’s identity several chapters before Rachel did.

One of things that I appreciated was the author’s decision to not make any particular characters the “good guys”. Every single character from the Rachel to the police officers and the “red-haired man in the train station” were flawed people, everyone with something to hide, to prove, to overcome. It helped the story to stay grounded in my opinion and stopped me from assuming the character’s POV as my own. I didn’t particularly cheer for any one or root against the other.

Overall, I did find this book to be entertaining but I am not sure why it received as much attention as it did. I can definitely name several books along this line that I would recommend much more strongly to another reader, The House Between Tides for one. This story was good, I just didn’t find it to be particularly memorable.

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The Light Between Oceans

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After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

M. L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this “gift from God.” And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss.

The Light Between Oceans is exquisite and unforgettable, a deeply moving novel.

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I just finished listening to The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. It was read by Noah Taylor and his narration was fantastic. I was surprised at first by his Australian accent – which is probably strange considering that the book is set in Australia, about Australians and written by an Australian – but it made such a difference that I would recommend to anyone that they listen to this book rather than read it. It sounded like Hugh Jackman was in my ear for 10+ hours, whispering sweet nothings. Magical. Taylor has spot on portrayals of male and female characters, particularly little Lulu, and I felt that each of the characters had their own “voice”. I would be open to listening to future audio books just based on the fact that he is the narrator.

The Light Between Oceans is a beautifully written tale of love and the connections it weaves between people, often unseen over many years. It is also a story of heartache. The pain of parents who lose children, of children who lose parents, and the bitterness that can develop between two people who love each other, when life gets in the way.

Stedman pulls and tugs at the strings between a loving, committed husband and wife, and manipulates those ties. Will they break? How much is too much to overcome? And how far will someone go against their personal code, to meet the needs of the person they love most in the world?

I found myself questioning what I would do in place of Isabel and Tom. Would I have kept the child who washed up on the only shore within a day’s sailing, seemingly in answer to my prayers? More to the point, would I give her back, after learning her mother is alive and desperately searching for her?

The ending of the Light Between Oceans is sad, more than I expected it to be, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I bawled my eyes out throughout the final chapter. Prepare to have a few tissues handy if you have a sensitive soul.

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