Title: Into the Water
Author: Paula Hawkins
Published: May 2nd 2017
Publisher: Penguin Random House Australia
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Rating: 4.5 stars
A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.
Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she’d never return.
With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present.
Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.
Many readers across the globe flocked to the cult novel, The Girl on the Train. This hugely successful novel paved the way for many other ‘girl’ themed psychological domestic based thrillers. I can only imagine the pressure the author of The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins, must have felt in both writing and releasing her second novel, Into the Water. Thankfully, I found the second offering from Paula Hawkins, to be an intricate and very clever read.
The first thing you need to know before delving into the murky waters of this novel, is that it is ambitious and it doesn’t have an entirely straightforward narrative. Instead, the narration of this novel is spread across fourteen different protagonists. As the book opens, there is an intriguing link to the past. We witness a dramatic introductory scene, whereby a young woman loses her life at the hands of those who believe she has been practicing witchcraft. As the poor soul is drowned in a local pool, this event has far reaching implications for years to come. In the present day, we discover that a local woman, a single mother Nel, who has been undertaking research and photography in the very same pool where the accused witch was drowned so long ago, has been found dead. The police ruling tends to point to suicide, but Nel’s sister and feisty teenage daughter beg to differ. Unable to put the cause of death to rest, Nel’s sister Jules investigates the last days of Nel’s life. Her research reveals the tragic truth behind the infamous pool, where another death occurred only a few months ago, along with a past history littered with drownings. Could they all be linked and why is this pool so deadly?
It is safe to say, I have been eagerly anticipating the release of this novel and as soon as it reached bookshelves, I was quick off the mark to score myself a copy. I actually read Into the Water a few weeks ago now and since, I have experienced some difficulty in putting my thoughts together for a review. It has baffled me why I have found Into the Water a complicated book to write about. However, my overall verdict was positive in regards to this book, I enjoyed it very much.
The witchcraft aspect of this novel and the very slight hints at the supernatural, pulled me into this novel. At university, I studied a history unit based on witchcraft, which opened my eyes to the persecution of many innocent women believed to be practicing witches. I found this topic fascinating and I liked how Hawkins drew on this as the opener to her novel, while also alluding to it at various points in the novel. The hints to witchcraft in Into the Water also links to eerie atmosphere Hawkins is careful at building for her reader. The village of Beckford, located in the north of England, is where Into the Water is set. This small Northumberland village is depicted in a haunting and evocative way by Hawkins. I was able to easily visualise, touch and feel the chills emanating from the main feature, the suicide pool. It is a place that Hawkins keeps us guessing about until the very end, after a few twists and red herrings. We are not sure if it is a place where the women there have met foul play, or have chosen to end their lives at the popular spot.
The defining feature of Into the Water are the amount of narrators that are present in the story. Some reviewers have said incorporating so many voices into the one novel was confusing and many lacked originality, so they blended into one another. I disagree, I found the narrators, once I got a firm grip on them, (it takes a little time so be patient) to be engaging. It was a challenging exercise trying to work out their individual stories, motivations and the part in which they played in the novel. There are stronger narrative voices that rise above the others. I connected to mother and victim Nel, as I took a great interest in her research on the pool. I also genuinely wanted to discover if her death was suicide, an accident, or murder. Jules, Nel’s sister, who returns home after many deliberate years away from Beckford, has a fascinating back story. I found myself deeply drawn to Jules, in particular, the revelations related to her awful experiences in her teen years which ultimately lead her to avoid Beckford and her family for many years. Finally, Nel’s teenage daughter Lena emerges as a strong, almost manipulative voice and was one that I found myself suspicious of throughout the novel. Most of the male narrators are significantly flawed and their actions in the novel are pretty despicable. The style of narration taken in this novel, where the focal characters shift throughout the book, allow us a glimpse into each character’s inner psyche, secrets and past, which was utterly compelling.
Into the Water was a book that made me think and it got my brain ticking for the entire time I spent reading this novel. What I really appreciated about Into the Water was that we got three (or possibly more) mysteries to solve in the one book. The narrative also cleverly intertwines contemporary events with historic occurrences and together, a completely arresting story emerges. Into the Water also incorporates a number of big themes, from sibling rivalry, complex family relationships, eating disorders, forbidden love, the supernatural and witchcraft. Overall, Into the Water worked for me, structurally it is a very ambitious novel, but I believe Paula Hawkins takes it in her stride and delivers a fine second novel.
Into the Water, by Paula Hawkins was published in May 2017 by Penguin Random House Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of Into the Water, Paula Hawkins, visit here.