Happy Sunday fellow book worms…for this post I will be reviewing Into the Water, the eagerly anticipated second novel by bestseller Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train. Before we delve into my thoughts on the book, let’s take a look at that trusty blurb to find out what it’s about:
Just days before her sister plunged to her death, Jules ignored her call.
Now Nel is dead. They say she jumped. And Jules must return to her sister’s house to care for her daughter, and to face the mystery of Nel’s death.
But Jules is afraid. Of her long-buried memories, of the old Mill House, of this small town that is drowning in secrecy . . .
And of knowing that Nel would never have jumped.
This book centres around a small English town called Beckford, through which there runs a river, affectionately known as ‘The Drowning Pool,’ where “troublesome women” are drowned. Many women seem to have lost their lives to its waters. There were young women accused of being witches drowned there, women who committed suicide there and, as the blurb suggests, women who were murdered there. The drowning which is at the heart of the book is that of Nel Abbott, a local woman who happened to be writing a book about the drowning pool and the many women who met their end there, much to the chagrin of the local residents who would prefer to leave the past in the past. Nel’s teenage daughter Lena believes her mother committed suicide, but her estranged sister Jules is convinced it was murder, but which one is correct?
My first and biggest problem with this book is the sheer amount of narrators. There are ELEVEN narrators (yes you read that right) all of which give their own perspectives and theories on Nel’s death as well as the various other secrets which come to light throughout the book- It is beyond confusing. Each one throws out their own reliable accounts and red herrings into the mix and worse still, none of these narrators have different enough voices to truly set them apart from one another, and after a while, they all blend into one another. At points, I found myself flicking back to previous chapters to clarify who was who and who did or said what. As a result, storylines are rushed and characters left undeveloped and any suspense or mystery is lost. Whilst I admire Hawkins’ ambition, sadly the whole thing fails to come together and makes for one confusing read.
My second problem is with the characters themselves and the fact that they are all wholly unpleasant. I did not empathise or connect with any of them and as a result, when they revealed some tragic or traumatic incident from their past, I read it the way I would read their lunch order- with complete disinterest and detachment. There are also parts of the book which feel clumsy, with important plot points and pieces of evidence sandwiched into chapters which might as well have read, “remember this, this is important to Nel’s murder.” Then there is the killer, whose identity is blatantly obvious from the second you are introduced, despite the dozens of red herrings presented by all of our unreliable narrators. I have never read an author go to such pains to point out what a “good guy” someone was before. There might as well have been a neon sign above their head reading “Killer here.”
But there are positives to this book. I thoroughly enjoyed the excerpts from Nel Abbott’s own book and the glimpses into the witch trials, peppered with hints at the paranormal, I just wish this had been explored more. There are also a number of interesting subjects touched upon within the book: the unreliability of our own memories, familial relationships, feminism and patriarchy, but because there are so many things going on, so many secrets revealed and narrator’s stories to follow, none of these topics are fully developed or explored. It is also obvious from reading this book that Paula Hawkins is a good writer, with some beautiful imagery and descriptions which set scenes beautifully and left clear images in your mind. Whilst I wasn’t a huge fan of this book, I have bought The Girl on the Train, so she has obviously left an impression.
Overall, it’s not a bad book, it’s just not a great book either. I admire the author’s ambition, but think the whole thing falls rather flat and makes for a confusing and forgettable read. I have no doubt however, given the huge success of Paula Hawkins and her debut novel The Girl on the Train, that this book will sell millions of copies, and it will find many fans. I would give it 3 stars out of 5.
Have you read this book? What did you think? Leave me a comment and let me know. Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to keep up to date on all my latest posts.