Into The Water by Paula Hawkins
Rating: 3 stars
This book has been one of the most highly anticipated spring/summer releases this year, written by Paula Hawkins of The Girl On The Train fame it is her second novel and it's almost as though the literary world is waiting to see can she deliver another smash hit or will it be a case of 'one trick pony'. I read Girl On The Train fairly quickly after it's release and whilst I enjoyed it I must confess to being surprised that it attracted as much attention as I did and that it made it all the way to movie status. I was therefore intrigued to read Into The Water to give me a second opportunity to assess the writing abilities of this new but very successful author.
This story is set in a small town next to a river and opens when the body of single mother Nel is pulled from the river, with everyone making the assumption it was most likely a suicide. A few months earlier a teenage girl from the town met a similar fate in the same river and questions remain unanswered about her death also. In fact, the river holds many secrets about the different women who have died in it over the years and this book is about their stories and the secrets the town holds about how they met their fate.
We are generally fairly used to thrillers with multiple perspectives, it is a popular format in literary fiction today but Hawkins takes this one stage further. In the first 50 pages of this book, there are literally so many characters introduced that it makes your head spin. None of the stories they are telling link together smoothly it is absolutely a snapshot of their own points of view on Nel's death and whether it was a suicide and about what a controversial character she was in her life and the very differing opinions of her. This multiple to an excess perspective meant that it took me some time to really relax into this book, the first quarter leaves you a little confused, having to check you are beginning to place just who each character is and their links to the others. I imagine that like other lower rated reviews of this book it could be that this writing approach has meant that, like me, you are left actually not really caring what happened to Nel.
As the book progresses past the first quarter you suddenly begin to realise you are becoming more familiar with everyone, you don't need to keep thinking so hard about it and you begin to relax more into the story. You are able to focus more on the history of the town, the dark secrets that it holds and begin to understand that there is much more that needs to be answered about Nel's death. However, one thing that is clear is that this town is particularly disturbed. The secrets that run through it touch everyone in it and there are a lot of stories we touch upon along the way, some which evoke more sympathy than others.
I liked this book, a bit like Girl On The Train I found that the author did pull me through with her short snappy chapters. You'd sit down and say you'd read one more and suddenly you were 5 chapters later and thinking how you got there. Naturally, as this is a mystery novel I don't want to delve too much into the plot for fear of ruining the experience for other readers but I will say that I felt the ending didn't leave me totally fulfilled. Whilst some of the characters stories concluded nicely and we were able to see them beginning to move on, other parts left us with frustrating unresolved issues that niggled.
I have to be honest and say that I think this book is going to be one you will either really love or be like myself a little ambivalent about it. I am not sure that in a few months time it will have stuck with me. I am fairly sure that it will sell many many copies but I would put it on my 'good but not outstanding shelf'