Into the Water – By Paula Hawkins

Into the WaterRating:

Synopsis2 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.

My reviewPaula Hawkins’ second book, relies a lot on the history of the small town forming the story’s setting for the haunting feeling that permeates throughout the book. This, along with almost a dozen narrators, is what provides the book with much of the smokescreen for what ultimately is a fairly simplistic resolution to the murder mystery.

Getting into the story does take some time, especially with so many narrators. It did throw me off a bit because I am not used to reading multi-PoVs that are more than 3 or 4. But with each narrator came a small but significant chunk of jigsaw pieces to the main puzzle at the heart of the plot and I am just glad that I actually caught onto and remembered all the minute details. Into the Water had what, in my opinion, makes the best kind of whodunits – where you guess the answers to some of the “smaller” questions based on what the author feeds you but are still stumped by the final revelation.

I loved the The Girl on the Train and I guess it is natural to have high expectations from the authors’ second books after their fab debuts. Into the Water is no TGotT – I felt the latter was definitely more character-driven with an alcoholic as the primary unreliable narrator. However, with Into the Water, I just felt that the large number of narrators somehow ended up inhibiting the author from actually devoting time to SHOWING how the people in the community felt about or got along with each other before and after the two successive deaths in their town. One of the main characters, Jules, who is actually the first narrator and who being one of the dead women’s sister, is at the heart of plot, didn’t make any impression on me at all. This was despite all the flashbacks we get about Jules and her sister in their teens. I actually found the backstory through the flashbacks more powerful and somehow connected with the younger Jules more than the present-day one – despite her transformation from someone who was ambivalent about her sister’s story or her niece’s emotional well-being to someone who finally starts making an effort. I connected more with her niece Lena’s frustration at her aunt and everyone around her who were trying to “meddle” into her mom’s and best friend’s deaths instead of believing her convictions that they were suicides.

The book has a dark, unhappy cloud shrouding it the whole time, but you don’t have any time to dwell on any particular mood because of all the frequent narrator changes. Though that is a good thing in terms of keeping the pace of the novel from dropping, the flipside of it was that some of the emotional moments didn’t make much of an impact on me. There were deaths, families grieving, a funeral, estranged families and a doomed love story but none of them moved me all that much. However, if you loved Hawkins’ writing in her first book, and if you are up for a good murder mystery; I wouldn’t hesitate recommending this. If I have to compare between the two, this one was definitely cleverer.

 

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The Girl on the Train – By Paula Hawkins

  Rating:

When Rachel isn’t drunk, she thinks about getting drunk. She is fired from her job. She lies, whines, and pines for her ex-husband. Envies his current wife. So yeah, her life is a train-wreck. Her only daily cheer is a catching a train to and fro every day; from Euston to Ashbury. As the train passes by the town she used to live in, it stops at a signal and across the same house every time. She likes looking at the young couple living in the house, she can see them in their terrace every morning. They remind her of the happier times she had with her husband. But the perfect image she had of them in her mind is shaken, when she sees something appalling. When a police case involving that couple ensues, she approaches the detectives with the information. But are they going to believe her?

The book has been compared to Gone Girl and Hawkins’ writing to Flynn’s. And I can see why. The story is told in past and present timelines, till the past ends and merges into the current day. Though Rachel is the narrator for the most part, there are couple of other women too. And none of them are too likeable. None are happy in their own lives and keep craving for validation from men. Rachel’s one-step forward and two-steps backward routine is frustrating to witness and her alcoholism makes her look pitiable. I felt sorry for her and felt like whacking her into her senses. I just wished, someone; be it her roommate or mom, is more forceful about helping her into rehab or AA meetings. But if she did sort herself out, the book wouldn’t have been half as seductive as it turned out to be. That’s the beauty of what Hawkins has done with this story, entrench the negative effects of alcoholism into the heart of the mystery. Rachel’s memory and version of events is so unreliable that she is barely able to recall anything or convince herself, let alone convince us readers. She trips up, makes a fool of herself in front of detectives, her words have no credibility, and yet she doggedly keeps at it. And I loved her for that. Because it felt good picking up a book with a narrator like that, especially after couple of recent reading experiences with either passive or ridiculously naïve protagonists.  Hawkins does an excellent job of juggling all the principal characters and keeping everyone relevant in moving the story forward.

The story is told in the “morning” and “evening” of each day, that took some getting used to. Because sometimes the previous night’s events are narrated during “morning”, the entire day’s events are narrated during “evening” and at other times it is just the present. I thought it was quite interesting and a different way to present the story. The book has some pretty insightful quotes too; this was my favourite:

For more quotes, check my Tumblr page here.

Two-thirds into the book, things start getting clearer (or maybe even earlier if you can take a good guess..) and maybe Hawkins could have held back the cards a bit longer. But it didn’t really take the fun out of reading the rest of the book. I was still eager to get the full picture; the when, why and how. It was such a smoothly written psychological thriller, and though it might not have had a final-pages flourish like Gone Girl, it didn’t have a hurried final-pages reveal like Sharp Objects either.

And now I come to the part where I have to find something strong and dramatic to end the review with a flourish, but I am not able to.. soooo … will just move on to the Amazon buy links:

Hardcover:  The Girl on the Train – Hardcover

Paperback: The Girl on the Train – Paperback

Kindle:  The Girl on the Train: Kindle