The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins is kinda/sorta like the book Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Not in their storyline… but in the way they are told. See, they both have something that’s become a bit of a “thing” lately. It’s called “The Unreliable Narrator“. Although, it’s hardly “new” at all. In fiction, as in life itself, not all who tell a story can be trusted. That’s been going on since… forever.
Now I’ve gone and given away the whole reason I chose this book today. It’s okay, folks… nothing to see (read) here.
Kidding! Please don’t go!
I should mention that I HATED Gone Girl. It wasn’t poorly written or anything like that. It was… at first… interesting and engaging… and then – bam! – nothing is as it seems. Well, okay, I said to myself… this is fun! Until the end. I hated the ending. I won’t give it away unless someone still wants to read it or see it, since it became a movie, too. Anyway, I hated it so much that the moment I finished it, I carried it out to my car, got in and drove to the nearest thrift store, where I put (tossed – fervently) it in the donation bin. You think I’m joking. I am not.
I talked about it (at the time) because it’s all anyone was talking about. On Facebook, I said how much I hated the book. My step-daughter LOOOOOVED it and told me so… and she was not alone! Everyone seemed to love it… well, everyone but me.
Then I read The Girl on the Train. I had no idea that it too had an unreliable narrator… at first… but then I realized it. Yet, it was a totally different experience. I loved it! It felt like a rollercoaster … full of ups and downs and crazy twists. It was… fun! The end was satisfying.
So, what was the difference? I’ve been thinking about it. And that’s how I came to write about this today.
We were getting an unrealiable story from Gone Girl because someone (the narrator) was purposely taking us (the readers) for a ride. There was a carefully crafted plan to trick us and attempt to make us feel a certain way. The narrorator wasn’t just unreliable… but a lying sack of shit. Not to put too fine a point on it.
The Girl on the Train is a little like Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window. She believes what she’s seeing… and she’s telling us. Is she trying to deceive anyone? I don’t think so… except maybe herself.
Ah. Here we are. Hello center of the maze.
I dislike people who purposely betray me. Intensely.
I can forgive it if it isn’t malicious.
If it is? God help you. Nope. Nada. Not gonna.
Okay, so that’s one thing.
Is the voice in my head a reliable narrator?
I know for a FACT that mine isn’t! For those who remember, I have health anxiety. The narrator in my head tells me I’m dying… all the time. Sometimes, I respond out loud: That’s a thought, not a fact! You know, to remind myself that the voice isn’t telling the truth.
That voice might be trying to scare me. For what reason? Makes for some interesting thinking.
What do you think?
How about your narrator? Reliable?