Author: Paula Hawkins
Title: The Girl on the Train
Year of publication: 2015
My rating: 4,5 out of 10
The Girl on the Train belongs to the category of trashy mega-bestsellers of the Gone Girl caliber. The “girls” in both titles are my age but the titles are not imprecise. These are not Bildungsromane. The adult protagonists live the results of the female development that pursues infantilization. The three female narrators of The Girl on the Train are not just infantilized. They are infants. These women refuse to reach at least the toddler stage and learn to form and retain memories. Their helplessness and neediness can only be compared to that of an infant. And the symbolic mother from whom they demand constant nourishment and comfort is, obviously, a man.
Men are needed to mother the infant-women but, at the same time, they are an object of intense rage and resentment if they fail to bring the nourishing tit to the screaming infant-wife the second she demands it. The men are all-powerful, mysterious forces who sometimes choose to torture the infants by keeping the crucial tit away. This process could not be more similar to the psychoanalytic description of the relationship between an infant and his mother’s breast. And, of course, the consequences of the breast staying away for too long are the predictable oral-stage traumas.
As trashy and devoid of any artistic merit as they are, these bestsellers are an important cultural phenomenon. The moribund Gender Studies programs could be reinvigorated if they started with a course on what actual women actually read, talk and care about so massively. There is absolutely nothing in today’s gender theory that would even remotely try to address the issues that preoccupy women today. Feminist theory (theory, not practice) has grown completely irrelevant to the majority of women. These bestsellers that I keep reading – in spite of their long-windedness, poor quality, and extraordinary repetitiveness – are enormously more valuable than the mountains of recent publications on gender that I study for work.
I can’t give The Girl on the Train more than 4,5 stars because the author is inexperienced, clumsy, and drags things out like’s she’s paid by the word. There is definite value in the book, however.