Review: Into The Water by Paula Hawkins

My Review

A string of mysterious drownings plague a small British town—the latest a single mother with a penchant for trouble.

With the international success of The Girl on the Train, readers like me had big expectations of Paula Hawkin’s sophomore effort. With Into The Water, Hawkins once again channels unreliable narration to spin a sinister, murky tale thrumming with unease. Deception runs deep amongst the townsfolk—those who’ve lost mothers, daughters, friends. Everyone is keeping secrets while the truth hides beneath dark waters, with the “troublesome” women who perished.

“Some say the women left something of themselves in the water; some say it retains some of their power, for ever since then it has drawn to its shores the unlucky, the desperate, the unhappy, the lost. They come here to swim with their sisters.”

While the novel is thoughtfully written, it sadly fell short of what I’d hoped. Too-slow pacing kept me indifferent, while the number of characters felt too many, making it confounding to follow.

The story opens with the death of Danielle (Nell) Abbott, who leaves behind a tormented daughter and a sister she’d not spoken to in years. Nell had been poking into the past, into the lives of those who’d died in what is referred to as Beckford’s “Drowning Pool.” Nell herself had felt a life-long affinity to the water, an obsession that fueled her fascination into the deaths of these women—why they did it, what they felt as they crashed into water, who drove them to jump off that cliff… or had they even jumped at all?

As Jules (her sister), Lena (her daughter) and those around them try to make sense of what’s happened, we gradually learn how each is connected to Nell, her death, and the deaths of the women who’ve come before. The ultimate reveal is of course what happened the night Nell “fell” to her death—no huge twist to pay off the sluggish pace.

The web is tightly tangled and its unravelling too slow, too predictable and as I mentioned above, a bit tough to follow. There’s no real thrill to the narrative, more of a slowly creeping unease and a psychological exploration of these small-town characters. There’s a historical thread that’s interesting and could have been better developed, and a couple more compelling characters that beckoned for a louder voice.

Hawkins is undeniably talented, so I’m hoping for better things to come.

✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦

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