Between the Lines Book Club: Feminism in Girl on the Train

between the lines book club logoBetween the Lines Book Club will be meeting tomorrow, August 27, 2016, at Arden Dimick Library at 10:30AM.  The Girl on the Train is one of a string of thrillers involving women, including Gone Girl and The Woman in Cabin 10. All of these thrillers involve women in the context of parenting, marriages, romantic relationships, and familial relation ships. They’ve hit a nerve, and some say it’s because by presenting women as the center of the story, and by presenting the reader with women who are not victims, the books are feminist in nature.

In “Why Everyone’s Talking About The Girl on the Train,”  Claire Fallon states:

By using our assumptions about how women can and should behave to set up shocking plot twists, or by pushing these assumptions to the logical extreme, a thriller can make use of its genre conventions to undermine societal conventions. In these novels, within the gripping mystery at its heart, the inherent dangers of femininity in modern life are gently unearthed, dusted off, and presented for us to see clearly. As much progress as women have made in our society over the past century, it’s clear that many of us are still hungry for this dramatic explosion of the sexism around us.

Heroine Jones points out that the characters in The Girl on the Train grow through a point in which they define themelves by the men in their lives into a place of more independence:

Without spoiling anything, I want to comment on the feminism of The Girl on the Train.  The message on traditional gender roles is subtle at first but eventually comes forward as an important final note.  Throughout the novel, Hawkins’ female characters all see their worth through the eyes of men.  As the story comes to a close, though, they all seem to find some level of personal strength to do what they know they have to do.  In confronting their individual fears of rejection in some form, they take one firm step towards emancipating themselves from the destructively limiting gender roles which they had previously fully accepted.

At Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, Elyse writes about the Gone Girl phenomena:

To me the killer in the basement is far less scary than a book that makes you question what the fuck is going on here? and by moving female characters out of the “victim” space and into something more complex and explored, it gives female characters more credit, makes them more human. The “innocent” blonde haired, blue eyed Midwestern girl gone missing will always draw readers — hell, it draws me — but I want my fiction to do more, to be a little bit more, and to give me the unexpected. I want more than the body in the woods. I want my female characters to be a little bit dangerous too.

Elyse lists several other books to try in the above article. She also reviewed The Woman in Cabin 10. In her review, it’s clear that The Woman in Cabin 10 deals with many of the same themes of manipulation that The Girl on the Train tackles:

Nilsson acts like Lo’s sleeplessness and antidepressants mean that Lo can’t be trusted to differentiate reality from fantasy, and the fact that she calls him on it is perfect. This is a common theme in mysteries/ thrillers/ horror fiction–you must be crazy! There’s not really a killer/ monster/ alien/ bigfoot hanging out here! Ooops I just got my face eaten, guess you were right. The thing is, most heroines don’t deal with their doubters are directly or forcefully as Lo.

What do you think? Did The Girl on the Train make you want to read more books in the genre? Do you think the book is feminist? Why or why not? Let us know in person tomorrow, or in the comments below!

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