Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

This girl is not on a train, nor is she gone. She is the Luckiest Girl Alive

After reading Girl on the Train and lamenting the death of the domestic noir genre, I immediately started reading another one.

The Luckiest Girl Alive instantly grabs the reader’s attention with the striking cover, and within the first two pages it attacks with a bite that Girl on the Train simply didn’t have.

We are presented with Ani, the main character, choosing her wedding list, and she is contemplating taking the knife she is looking at and sliding it into her husband-to-be’s gut.

Immediately, there is a sense of tension, of danger, that Girl on the Train lacked. A few pages later and it becomes clear that Ani is not a particularly likeable character, but she doesn’t come across as unreliable.

The book alternates between Ani in her late twenties and Ani – then known as TifAni in her – as a fourteen year old and transferring to a new school.

It is clear that something horrific has happened at the school, specifically something horrific happened to Ani at the school, but it is not immediately revealed. What is clear from the beginning is that whatever it was had a big impact on Ani.

Fourteen year old TifAni is not the same as grown-up Ani, and it is finding out exactly what changed her that keeps the pages turning in this thriller.

Ani isn’t a particularly nice person and it is hard to side with her, or relate to her inner conflict about whether to marry Luke or not – I found myself not caring whether she did or not, but the ending is the ending that Ani deserves, and does give some hope that she might become a likeable character.

That is what this genre is seemingly all about – if the benchmark is Gone Girl, a novel which presents us with a host of unlikeable characters, that we are fascinated by, then the writer above all else needs to concentrate on that.

Perhaps that was the problem with Girl on a Train. While I didn’t particularly like the main character, I did pity her, and she was very much the victim. Ani, on the other hand actually IS a victim, but there’s not much time for pitying her.

I still think the domestic noir genre has peaked and will settle down into just another strand of thrillers. Before that happens, though, we will get a whole avalanche of Luckiest Gone Girl Alive on a Train type books. Luckiest Girl Alive deserves to stand out as one of the better examples.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Every now and then a book comes along that sells and sells and sells. The likes of Grey and Go Set A Watchman come along occasionally and sell – to use a technical term – shitloads in a short space of time.

But some books sell and they consistently sell well and they top the charts week after week.

The Da Vinci Code, The Hunger Games, Gone Girl, Fault in Our Stars, all of these are amongst the bestsellers with some of them still going even now, years after their publication.

After the phenomenon that was Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, the sequel The Lost Symbol was released to great fanfare in 2009 and spent a record breaking nineteen weeks in the number one slot in the Fiction Hardback chart.

To put that into context, there are SO many books published each week, that the average title stays in the charts for around six to seven weeks.

The Lost Symbol spending that long at the top of the chart is the book-world equivalent of a man living to be 250 years old.

Earlier this month, that record was broken by the book that even the most casual of readers will have noticed hanging around in bookshops – The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.

Since Before I Go To Sleep and Gone Girl first hit the heights of popularity, a new genre has emerged in fiction – domestic noir. Basically tense thrillers involving a married couple – The Girl on the Train is just the latest in a long line of hit titles in the genre – but it may well be the peak.

I finally got round to reading GotT this week and… I struggled. There is nothing wrong with it. There’s a nice twist – literally – at the end, there are some very tense moments, and it’s well written.

But parts of it are predictable – in fact, that’s the nature of domestic noir novels – not always that the husband did it, but they feature a small cast of characters, and so it is often easy to spot the bad guy (or girl).

Where these books succeed is in the character’s motives and the ‘how do they get through this’ factor.

The Girl on the Train is just not worth the hype. There is no discernible reason why it has had the success it has had, when others that are equally good or even better have not fared as well.

It’s a good read, it’s a quick read, but it’s distinctly average. Perhaps as a gateway drug to the genre, it’s a good book, or even for those desperate to read more of this type of title, but I suspect we are now at the point with any resurgent genre where we will see a huge cascade of copy-cat titles.

Besides, she’s not even on the train that much.