Or, Why You Should Give Paula Hawkins' Mega Bestseller a Second Try
I read the novel over a year ago, and I loved it. I told my reader friends to read it. Some did, some tried and couldn't get through it. And I get it. There are three narrators, time skips around, the main narrator is admittedly a drunk and an unreliable narrator. So why would you read a novel about three unlikable women that's hard to follow?
Or, if you were asking me, why would you read it three times?
And here's the answer: because it keeps getting better.
Like I said, I read it the first time over a year ago. I read it fast, because I wanted to know what happened, and by that I mean: who killed Megan? I thought that would satisfy my need to get through the book, and I could move on with my life. But then realized that knowing that only lead to more questions. Learning the who is only the beginning of unraveling the story of these women.
So I read the book again several months later. This time, I wasn't as thrown by the changes in narration or in time. It flowed in a way that made more sense. I discovered hints throughout as to what was going to happen.
Now, with the opening of the movie, I'm on number three. This time, I decided to go with the audio version, just to change things up a little. There are three different narrators, one for each women, and they all voice their chapters beautifully. Okay, truth be told, I'm only about halfway through right now, but I'm loving the experience. And does this novel stand up to a third reading?
I was expecting to enjoy this, to remember all the characters and to enjoy hearing this in a British accent before it gets Americanized for the movie. And yes, that is happening. But I didn't expect the rest. I am experiencing this story in a whole new and surprising way.
This book has layers, people. Listening again, I see what it is that the author is doing to us. That thing where some readers are struggling because of the changes in narration, because of the changes in time, because Rachel is difficult to like? This is actually a lot like Rachel's life. Her perspective shifts as she drinks more--or less, time is fluid for her since her memories are intermittent, and she doesn't like herself much either. You're supposed to feel lost as you read this novel. As you, the reader, grow in confidence in learning what's happening, Rachel grows in understanding and self-confidence. Paula Hawkins is taking you on an emotional roller coaster, one that mirrors the main character's journey.
As you uncover the layers of the story, you watch as Rachel uncovers her truer self. You find out that she has reasons for the things she does. And maybe that those things she does when she drinks isn't about her becoming more scared and insecure, it's where she finds her strength, where she thinks most clearly, where she sees the truth laid bare.
Did you struggle with this book? Good. You're supposed to. Read it anyway. And then read it again. And if you really want to see the magic, read it a third time. This book is a masterpiece.