The ‘Trigger Warning’ that wasn’t

Big Neil Gaiman fan here – for reals.  That sexy accent, the mad halo of hair, the general sort of unpredictability of just what will come out of his head next…So, while I enjoyed Trigger Warning (Neil Gaiman, 2015), I have to admit to finding it a little…lacking.  In fairness, the stories, poems, and tales that comprise the book were all published elsewhere and for different purposes.  So, where the pieces are individually strong it is not simply my imagination that finds them somewhat disjointed, not necessarily…compatible.  In fact, individually, I think I may have actually loved it a little bit.  I found it at times ethereal and haunting, funny, odd, fragile, and beguiling.  There is a bit in the beginning that exists for no other purpose than to describe the circumstances in which each contribution was conceived, and it is fascinating and at least somewhat brilliant.

Overall, my most serious complaint is with regard to the title.  I’ve come to think of a trigger warning as something specific to what I will reluctantly call ‘woman trauma.’  I understand that all manner of people and some creatures can be victimized, but, for whatever reason, I think of trigger warnings as notes of caution for women who have suffered abuse as opposed to say, people who are afraid of tentacles…This is, perhaps, a small distinction, but in the world where names are imbued with nothing more nor less than the meaning we assign them it feels important to me to point out that this book was not what I was told it would be.  I didn’t want to read about women being subjected to abuse, but I did want to know what I was getting into.  I am not sure Trigger Warning achieved this end.

Click Clack and the Rattlebag was excellent.

We need to talk about The Girl on the Train

I don’t like thrillers, psychological or otherwise.  I would prefer not to be uncomfortable (though hopelessly sad is okay).  I want characters I can trust to give me pertinent information and impressions, eventually building to a story that is relate-able and real.  The Girl on the Train (Paula Hawkins, 2015) is not my kind of book, and I loved it.

Generally speaking, when a novel’s primary narrator is what they call ‘unreliable’, he (and it does tend to be a he, in my experience) is a self aggrandizing ass-hat whose mental pathology is so warped he is incapable of connecting to reality the way other characters do.  That is, he consistently re-writes history to make himself look better or to justify his less favorable actions.  Not so with Hawkins’s heroine.  (Who is not a heroine at all…). What makes Rachel interesting is that she is fully aware of having made some terrible choices.  She isn’t proud of herself, but she doesn’t deny what she is either.  For a hot mess, she was down-right refreshing.

She also has no idea what happened at key points in the novel.  At times, her narration is more like an investigation, which, perhaps surprisingly, is compelling.  I found myself rooting for her, hoping she hadn’t done something horrible (all the while suspecting she may have).  This sort of slow reveal made reading the novel an almost visceral experience, and one I found entirely unique.  To say that the book is well-written is to understate the point.  I will say instead that it is well-thought, well-crafted, and, again, entirely unique.

5 stars to Paula Hawkins on her stunning debut.