The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – Book Review

I bought a copy of Paula Hawkins’s psychological  thriller “The Girl on the Train” after I watched this movie trailer on YouTube. It’s an exciting trailer for a movie starring Emily Blunt, one of my favorite actresses. It definitely has a “Gone Girl” feel to it.

I had very high expectations, which the source material did not meet. The movie trailer, the book’s being called the next “Gone Girl”over hyped the book for me.

Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt) is a 32-year-old alcoholic who rides the commuter train at the same time every morning and night. On most mornings, the commuter train temporarily stops at a suburban neighborhood. Rachel has made a habit of observing a particular couple breakfasting on their deck during these routine train stops. She’s given them names: Jess and Jason. She fantasizes about their life as the perfect suburban couple.

This suburban neighborhood Rachel obsesses over is the same neighborhood she used to live in with her ex-husband Tom Watson (Justin Theroux).

Jess and Jason live in a flat along the same row as and identical to the flat Rachel used to live in.

Tom still lives in this flat with his new wife Anna Watson (Rebecca Ferguson).

Jess, real name: Megan Hipwell (Haley Bennett), is nanny to Tom and Anna’s child.

One day, Rachel sees something odd during her usual morning commute. Megan is with a man who isn’t her husband. She kisses the man who isn’t her husband. That’s when everything changes.

Soon after, Megan Hipwell disappears.

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“The Girl on a Train” is a fascinating read. The story is told from the point of view of three women: Rachel, Anna, and Megan.

Primarily, the story is viewed through the eyes of Rachel, an alcoholic who suffers from blackouts when drunk. Her unreliability as a narrator adds to the story’s mystery and tension.

It isn’t just Rachel who is messed up though. Every character in this novel is terrible and unreliable in different ways. They are a reflection of how flawed humans are in real life.

The novel begins slow, but by the middle of it my mind was abuzz trying to solve the mystery of Megan’s disappearance.

It’s comparison to “Gone Girl” got me thinking that maybe Megan was alive and plotting revenge on her husband Scott Hipwell (Luke Evans). Perhaps Rachel, envious of Megan’s seemingly perfect marriage and angry that she cheated on Scott, murdered Megan during one of her drunken blackouts. Or maybe it’s as simple as Scott killing Megan because of her infidelity.

But what about Anna and Tom, surely they were involved with the disappearance in some way?

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All aboard the hype train for “the thriller that shocked the world”!

Unfortunately, I figured out who the killer was three-quarters through the novel. This wasn’t a deal breaker for me. I solved the mystery and felt proud of my accomplishment.

But this novel’s big reveal had no where near as strong an impact as “Gone Girl” did, and that was a huge letdown.

There were also too much men being violent towards helpless women in this novel. I really wanted Amy Dunne to come and intervene on the women’s behalf!

“The Girl on the Train” is a smart and well-written psychological thriller, unfortunately tame when compared to Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl.” I’d go as far as saying that Paula Hawkin’s debut novel pales in comparison to Flynn’s other works, particularly “Dark Places” and “Sharp Objects.”

It suffers from over hype, though I expect the movie will be as good as advertised.

Coffee Bean and Tea Reads Rating:

4 Beans
4 beans out of 5
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Perfect Blue by Satoshi Kon – Animated Film Review

Title: Perfect Blue
Director: Satoshi Kon
Writer: Sadayuki Murai
Year Released: 1997
Run Time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Based on the novel Perfect Blue: Complete Metamorphosis
by Yoshikazu Takeuch

Perfect Blue may evoke images of clear skies and vast oceans, but this animated film focuses on a much deeper shade of blue. In fact, it is one of the most serious movies—animated or live-action—that I have ever seen.

I am impressed by how the film tackles the dark side of Japan’s entertainment industry, while remaining an unpredictable psycho-crime thriller simultaneously. A storytelling masterclass, Perfect Blue is one of my favorite animé films of all time.

This Satoshi Kon film may feature gorgeous animation, but it also has violence and nudity in spades. It deals with adult psychological themes, and even features a simulated, albeit very realistic, rape scene. IMDB states that Perfect Blue was originally planned as a live-action film, but backers withdrew their support during pre-production. Still, this film is as realistic as gets when it comes to animation. Kon really did a great job with it.

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(I recently learned a live-action film has already been made. I hope to watch and share my thoughts on it soon.)

I like how the film blurs the lines between being awake and asleep, in reality or in a delusion, to the point that both the protagonist and the viewer can no longer distinguish between fantasy and reality. This confusion slowly builds up, exploding into utter paranoia in a dream-wake-dream-wake climax, followed by an ending both totally predictable and completely unexpected.

Perfect Blue had me squirming in my seat through several sequences. I even had to pause the film and take a breather more than once. But the discomfort and the frustration is all worth it at the end, where a lighter shade of blue finally seeps through, if only for a second or two.

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(But what is the perfect shade of blue? Is it light or dark? Is there even one to begin with? Come and share your thoughts on this—and the film—in the comments section below.)

Some viewers say this Satoshi Kon film is a perfect introduction to the world of animé. I say it all depends on the kind of animé you want to watch. Perfect Blue is definitely not your typical Japanese animation. It is not for kids or teenagers, nor for the faint of heart. Here is an R-rated animated film for a mature adult audience.

If you are looking for an intelligent thriller that will leave you in deep thought and reflection, then I invite you to watch Perfect Blue. Even if you end up hating it, I assure that you will have a memorable viewing experience.

Coffee Bean and Tea Reads Rating:

5 Beans
5 Beans out of 5