The Girl On The Train

Author: Paula Hawkins– was a journalist born in Zimbabwe, has been a London resident since 1989, also wrote The Money Goddess: The Financial Guide for Women

Publisher: Riverhead Books, The Penguin Group

Copyright: 2015

Genre: Mystery

Rachel, who is a divorcee and a bit obsessive, and has a mind clouded by alcohol narrates the majority of this fast paced thriller.  This is an English mystery written in unreliable narration form. Every twist and turn is given in bits and pieces to the reader by unreliable female minds that live in a constant dysfunctional state. Rachel, the main character is immediately intriguing with her obsessive thoughts and constant drinking. Beginning her days sober she takes the “slow train from Ashbury to Euston,” and by evening she’s on her way back sipping on gin and tonic, comparing the taste with her “first- ever holiday with Tom.” While the reader is not quite sure who Tom is in the beginning, it’s safe to assume he may be part of the reason for her drink, among many other drinks. Rachel takes the same train ride every day in to Euston for no reason other than to convince her roommate she is still employed and still functioning as a normal human, and can still make her rent payments on time.

In the second chapter, the reader finds out that “Number fifteen (Blenheim Raod), is much like the other houses along this stretch of track: a Victorian semi, two stories high, overlooking a narrow, well- tended garden that runs around twenty feed down towards some fencing…I know this house by heart” Rachel tells herself. As it turns out, the unit in reference is not Tom and Anna’s unit, although they live a few houses down, this one belongs to “Jason and Jess, they are the perfect, golden couple.” The couple, “Jason” and “Jess” she has imagined is as perfect as the beginning of her marriage to Tom. She imagines they have gloriously fashionable jobs, he a doctor, she an artist, go running on Sundays together, and take care of each other as healthy soul mates should do.

Rachel goes home in the evening to polish off entire bottles of wine, to wake up to whichever disaster she caused in her blackout in the morning. Sometimes she calls Tom, “the call log on my phone says I rang four times: at 11:02, 11:54, 12:09. Judging from the length of the calls, I left two messages. He may even have picked up, but I don’t remember talking to him.” To Rachel’s detriment she gets drunk and does things she doesn’t remember doing, or wouldn’t do if she were sober. This causes her to believe she’s done horrible things in the past, in her marriage, to Tom to make it all her fault their marriage ended. Her fantasies about “Jess” and “Jason” continue on until the day she sees “Jess” from the train with another man.

The reader then jumps inside of Megan’s mind and discovers her perspective to be far different from what Rachel has imagined. Megan, is married to Scott, also known as “Jess” and “Jason” in Rachel’s world. It’s discovered Scott and Megan’s marriage is not as happy as it appears, and that Megan is well aware that her problems need to be addressed before she loses her marriage. Megan, a former owner of an art gallery, gets bored easily and acts on impulse. She fills up a good part of her time babysitting Tom and Anna’s child while Anna gets rest. Anna is Tom’s new wife that we later find out he was cheating with before his divorce of Rachel. However, Megan quits rather abruptly one day, to Scotts disapproval, and decides to start going to therapy so she can start to deal with some of her issues such as the devastating loss of her brother Ben.

In twisting back in to Rachel’s mind, she can’t seem to get “Jess” and “Jason” off of her mind. She can’t believe “Jess” is cheating and thinks “Jason” ought to know. She’s not going to tell him, of course, but she still wants to get a glimpse of him from the train. The morning after she goes to get her glimpse of Jason she knows something has happened, “something happened, something bad. There was an argument. Voices were raised. Fists? I don’t know, I don’t remember. I went to the pub, I got on to the train, I was at the station, I was on the street. Blenheim Road. I went to Blenheim Road….my hair is matted with blood.” Rachel knows whatever happened on Blenheim Road, it was not good, but the blackout keeps her from remembering the details.
Later, on the train, Rachel reads the headline: “Concern For Missing Witney Woman.” Megan Hipwell of Blenheim Road has gone missing. Rachel is stunned and confused. The news of her missing sends Rachel in to a state of sheer obsession with that evening, her blackout, with Scott (Megan’s husband), and how all of the twisting and turning leads back to what happened on Blenheim Road the evening Megan Hipwell went missing. She feels it is the key information needed to solve the mystery. Rachel is rarely taken seriously by anyone, due to her problems, and even finds herself lying to police, but she knows in her heart and mind she should and can help. She just can’t seem to keep her nose out of it even though she’s been warned many times to stay away. The mystery of missing Megan Hipwell finally does get solved in one big train wreck one night, in Rachel’s own backyard.

The story is written masterfully with so many jumps starting with Rachel’s narration and perspective, jumping on to Megan’s, and then even Anna, who only wants a life free of Rachel’s constant harassment from the stupid ex-wife that can’t get over anything and stays drunk. It’s learned through each perspective how a bit of thought and intention leads to the many betrayals and tragedies discovered in each of their lives. It’s learned and discovered that even the person with the best of intentions tells themselves lies, tells other’s lies, and believes the lies they are told. The sociopaths in the story have done a great job of gas lighting their victims and thereby the reader as well, right up until the end is it figured out who could have done it. This is a wonderfully fast paced, addictive, can’t put it down, psychological thriller and hopefully the first of many from Paula Hawkins.


Funny Girl

A Novel by Nick Hornby

Publisher:  Riverhead Books (The Penguin Group)

Copyright: 2014, New York, New York

Funny Girl is Nick Hornby’s first new novel in five years.  Hornby is best known for his novels High Fidelity and About a Boy.  Some of his awards include the National Book Critics Circle Award, Whitbread Novel Award, and ALA Best Books for Young Adults.

Funny girl is about protagonist Barbara Parker from Blackpool, England.  Barbara begins her journey of wanting to be more than just another beauty queen when she gives up her crown and moves to London to pursue her dreams of becoming a comedienne, much like her American idol Lucille Ball.  We immediately learn that Barbara is a strong, smart, beautiful young woman, quite capable and unafraid of doing what she needs to do to live out her dreams.

In the beginning her father wants her to stay in Blackpool and live out her term as Blackpool’s beauty pageant winner.  Hornby does a great job of creating a female character of her own mind and strong will as Barbara leaves her crown behind to the second place winner and moves to London.

Barbara’s move to London is not without struggle, however, as she finds herself a roommate (Marjorie), and a job in a department store, she quickly discovers how discouraging life can be while pursuing her dream.  Barbara doesn’t immediately find acting work, and in fact her roommate Marjorie schools her on the use of men in her pursuit.  Barbara begins to doubt that she can make it in to acting without being on the arm of a man, something that in this time period may have been a very real issue.  This is something of a disappointment to Barbara, even though she tries it briefly anyway by having a date with a married man.

Brian, who is Barbara’s agent by accident and who is happily married and not looking to use Barbara for anything other than to make her a soubrette (a minor female role in a comedy, typically that of a pert maidservant).  She tells Brian she wishes to audition for legitimate acting gigs. Hornby gives an accurate description in the absurdity of an actresses struggle as she bombs every one of her auditions. Brian gives her a record to improve her accent and then he finds her a script from Comedy Playhouse, a series of one half hour shows the BBC uses to launch new comedies, which is exactly what she’s searching for.  Barbara lands an audition for a new BBC sitcom, and her success and run to stardom happens absurdly fast.  Barbara introduces herself to Clive, Tony, Dennis, and Bill as Sophie Straw, her spontaneously made up screen name.  It becomes ironic that she gets to play the part of Barbara from Blackpool, who is married to Jim (Clive’s character).  Hornby does a good job of writing what could be called a comedic script inside of a comedic script.  The BBC sitcom Barbara (and Jim), becomes a hit and so does Sophie become a star.  The off screen shenanigans begin when Sophie and Clive begin having their own real life love affair, with Dennis (the producer), in the background quietly falling in love with Sophie, for a big dose of unrequited love.  Who does Ms. Straw wind up marrying in the end?

The ongoing dialog of this diverse group of characters is very engaging and humorous, along with the slightly controversial relationships between the writers Tony and Bill.  This is an English twist on sitcoms with a female star, much like Lucille Ball in the United States.  Hornby adds in photographs of script writers and celebrities from that time period, portraying the fictional Barbara in a historically accurate setting.

Many young ladies of yesterday and today dream of becoming a star, but the comedic genius of Barbara is what draws an immediate kinship with the character as a female with bigger than life dreams, leaving behind the safety of her hometown to make them happen.  Her character is fearless.  Sophie is as loveable as her leading men portray.  Sophie “grows up” in the lifetime of her career and the time period of the book. The book is a great read for enjoying lots of dialog, romance, and learning what it’s like to be on the set of a comedy, and walk in the shoes of a smart, funny, leading lady from the historical 50s and 60s.  This book gives some inside historically accurate type of “dirt” in an historically accurate setting, all the while using fictional characters to reveal some of the inside scoop of the trials and tribulations of actors and actresses, scriptwriters, and producers during this time period. It doesn’t become overly dramatic or too personal with character assassination.  This is wonderfully light read with some deeper underlying issues made slightly absurd through Hornby’s writing genius.  Funny Girl is a recommended read for Nick Hornby fans.

BLOGGING 101 First Public Post

Hello, my name is Ellen Lowe and I’m a single mom of three great kids. I also work full time at a nice day job. I’ve decided to start blogging so I can add professional writing to my resume and begin reviewing random media and other fun things, such as books, movies, television shows, restaurants, and anything else that bears a noteworthy review.  I’m an avid reader of almost everything.  I also love movies and television.  I love to see live shows, eat dinner out, watch live music, and spend my free time writing about many topics.

I’ve decided to open my first public blog so I can hone my writing and creative skills and begin a writing career.  I’d love to one day be published and make money through writing.  I’m very new at all of this, so I’m here and ready to learn!

I’m looking forward to connecting with anyone interested in entertainment topics like books and movies, and anything that will be seen on my blog that is of interest.

I also look forward to connecting with other bloggers as well as book and article writers and various creative people.  I’m very excited this year to be setting up my first blog. I want to make it look and feel branded and professional, and hope to be up and running with reviews 2 to 3 times per week during the months of March and April.  I’m very excited to be here!