Monday, March 13, 2017

Book vs. Film: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

One of my goals this year is to do more Book vs. Film reviews. I'm not sure about you, but anytime I see a new movie coming out that says it's based on a novel I buy the book right away and then plan on reading the book before seeing the movie. Sometimes that means I refuse to see the movie for a very long time since, you know, it takes me FOREVER to get through all the books I plan to read. So one of my 2017 reading resolutions...get to those books sooner so I can finally see the movies!
I read and reviewed The Girl on the Train back in November 2016 and just saw the movie that came out to rent recently. See what I thought about both below....

The Book (originally posted November 2016) 

Publisher: Riverhead BooksPub. Date: January 13th, 2015
Pages: 336

I went into reading The Girl on the Train with some trepidation. So many people have read this book and lauded it as the "next Gone Girl", a book I really enjoyed, so I was prepared to be disappointed. I also read a number of reviews stating the characters were just horrible and not worth caring about, so I wasn't really sure what to expect. I'm so glad I set my concerns aside and picked up the book because I absolutely loved following along with Rachel as she tried to decipher her memories and figure out what really happened to the "Jess" girl she had been watching from the train.

The set up of the novel was great, with each chapter going back and forth in time and being told from the point of view of one of three characters: Rachel, a sad alcoholic with a tendency to not only make up fantasies within her own head but black out and lose whole stretches of time; Megan, the girl Rachel sees from the train that goes missing one day; and  Anna, the new wife of Rachel's ex-husband and neighbor of Megan. Each character's point of view gives us bits and pieces of what has happened not only currently (with Megan's disappearance) but in each of their pasts. This sort of tentative release of information built a delicious anticipation, and this combined with seeing Rachel's lost memories of the night Megan goes missing slowly resurface, made for a wonderful whodunit.

While I will agree that there are no "innocent" characters in this story, whether that be these three women or the men in their lives, I never felt like I didn't care what happened to them. This is especially true with Rachel, who I couldn't help but root for and hope she would get the help she  needed to stop drinking and move on from the dreams of her past "happy life". I've never been one to discount a whole story based solely on unsympathetic characters and I loved how complicated and real (if highly dysfunctional) the characters in The Girl on the Train were.

Now, the big mystery regarding Megan's disappearance. I'll admit I somehow guessed what really happened and who was involved pretty early on. With so many characters having a myriad of issues and dislikeable characteristics I channeled my inner Scooby Doo and went with the character I thought seemed the least likely and, lo and behold, I was right! Even with guessing the inevitable outcome I still very much enjoyed watching how the story would unfold and how the various clues would eventually fall into place. And there were still some elements I didn't even think about that make the ending that much more interesting.

I found The Girl on the Train to be a quick and enjoyably twisty tale. I can definitely see why this has been compared so often to Gone Girl as our main character and her memories are about as unreliable as they come. After finishing this one I've definitely been put in the mood for more mysteries like this, and I'm now on high alert for the next book by the author.
My Rating: 4.5/5.0

The Movie

Release Date: October 7th, 2016
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Length: 112 minutes
I love Emily Blunt so was excited/wary to see her play the sad sack that is Rachel. She's so pretty and vibrant in most of her movies, so I wasn't really sure how she'd pull off someone so dejected and pitiful. Now, having watched it, I think she did an okay job as Rachel, although I'm not sure if she was "just right" for the part and, truth be told, I feel that way about most of the actors within the movie. They all did a good job playing their parts and advancing the story, however none of them blew me away even though they have in other parts. I'm not sure if this is just due to the nature of the story and the way it's presented or not, but either way I would say the acting was good but not great.

As to the story, I think what worked so well in the book - the alternating perspectives and going back and forth in time - made for some confusion in the movie. I watched the movie with my husband, who didn't read the book and doesn't understand why I would want to read/watch something with characters that aren't very good people, and he kept having to ask me who was who (the actresses who play Megan and Anna look a lot alike), when the particular scene was taking place during the overall storyline, etc. As the realization of who the killer was started unfolding I kept asking him who he thought did it and he had no clue. Frankly he didn't really care! I already knew who it was, obviously, but I can see how the unfolding of the story might prove difficult for someone who hasn't read the book to follow.

The Girl on the Train was a good whodunit sort of movie but definitely doesn't stand up to the book.  The time constraints inherent in a movie made for less development of the characters' backstories and personalities and, therefore, made them less sympathetic than even in the book (I found this particularly true for Anna). I enjoyed it for the entertainment that it was, however I would definitely recommend the book over the movie!

My Rating: 3.0/5.0   
So what do you say? Have you read the book and/or seen the movie? Which did you prefer?



  1. I read the book and plan to see the movie. I'm sure I already commented on the book the first time you reviewed it. I had a lot of problems with it so didn't feel the same as most reviewers. I feel it was over-hyped.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, techeditor! I think most readers seem to fall into two camps: those that loved this book and those that didn't like it. While I loved it I can see why some might not. I hope you like the movie better!