Tuesday, June 13, 2017

INTO THE WATER BY PAULA HAWKINS - BOOK REVIEW

I was pleasantly surprised with the latest book from Hawkins, especially after the event that was The Girl on the Train.


Hello everyone!

I am back with another book, today it is Into the Water by Paula Hawkins. Thank you to Penguin Random House for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.


This book follows the story of the death of a woman, Nel, who has devoted her life to telling the stories of the women who have died at the Drowning Pool in her small town. She left behind a fifteen-year-old daughter, Lena who is now under that care of her mother's estranged sister Jules. As an investigation is undergone, old secrets and stories from the town arise: the retired police chief's wife's drowning nearly forty years ago, the stories of witches - they used to be 'tested' in the river's waters, and Katie, Lena's best friend who was found drowned in the river a few months earlier, ruled a suicide.

Right off the bat, this book was a lot different from Hawkin's debut. I don't really want to compare the two but I think it is important to recognize that these are two very different stories. I think Hawkins' writing has grown since the debut but this book is so different it is tricky to say that one is better than the other.

I really enjoyed the slow burn of this story. Hawkins' does a great job of unraveling the layers of the story - everyone is a part of the story on a larger scale and she does a great job of weaving everything together.

The story is told in many different perspectives, with the character named at the top of the pages within the chapter to help keep things straight. I thought that each character, for the most part, had a distinct voice, but I was appreciative of the headings for those few times when I needed to double-check. Hawkins also alternated persons throughout the novel, Jules' sections were written in second-person, for example, and the 'you' she was referring to was her sister, Nel. Others were in first and third person. But Hawkins' writing never felt disjointed or choppy, you quickly get used to the writing style and the story flows easily.

The mystery was anything but predictable. Firstly, it was unclear whether or not Nel was murdered or if she jumped, and even if she was murdered, there wasn't one clear suspect. Every character seemed capable of doing it, but also not capable at the same time. Hawkins plays with your head a bit, and even in the end, I'm not convinced I believe everything. I didn't find it annoying, however, I know sometimes when everyone is a suspect the story can become even more thrilling or more monotonous because you are having to weed everyone out. She did a good job of balancing things and keeping it interesting.

In the end, I think this book is even more about family and past secrets long festered than it is about what happened to Nel. When we do find out I almost felt numb, because of everything else that had happened leading up, it all seemed so much more important. I was a little disappointed with the big reveal, or I guess lack of a big reveal, but I was more involved with other elements of the story so I suppose it didn't matter that much.

I loved the river elements and the inclusion of Nel's manuscript. I was fascinated by the history of the river, particularly about the witch-hunt era. Like with her debut, I think Hawkins does a great job of taking something seemingly harmless and turning it into an obsession. She is able to almost humanize the obsession into something we can all recognize but didn't realize we recognized until she pointed it out. It is easy to see how Nel became obsessed with the river and its tales, I know I won't soon forget it.

Overall, this was a slow, carefully woven story that will stick with me.