Book Review: Into the Water (Paula Hawkins)

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Naturally, the new Paula Hawkin’s novel, Into the Water, was on my “most anticipated” list for spring. I didn’t particularly love or hate The Girl on the Train (if you want, you can check out my review for that one here) but I did admire the ability of Hawkin’s writing and was intrigued by a story that could take the world by storm. I was curious to see what her second novel would be like.

I went into this one completely blind; I had obviously seen the cover image and knew many bloggers were feeling a “love it or hate it” type of vibe, but I did not want to be swayed. So I stayed away from reviews and from the synopsis of this book until I was ready to dive in!

See what I did there?  That was a water pun.

I was pleasantly surprised when I started this one. The novel opens with a single mother (Danielle, Nel to friends and family) found dead at the bottom of “The Drowning Pool”, the assumption is that she has committed suicide by drowning. A teenage girl succumbed to the same fate earlier that summer just as many women over the course of history had before them. Leaving a daughter behind and a sister in turmoil, Nel’s death starts a series of events that uncovers the mysteries of this body of water. Perhaps Beckford River is not a suicide spot at all; perhaps it is the place to get rid of troublesome women.

However, although I found that this one had an interesting concept,  I found it considerably slower paced than Hawkin’s previous novel. I found myself intrigued and hooked enough to continue reading, but I felt like parts dragged on.   I also struggled with bits of the characterization. This story had lots of characters that each get their turn at narrating small sections of the book. I found this to be confusing. With short chapters, some only a couple pages in length, I found the multi-perspective, quick switch narration to slow down my reading significantly. I kept having to stop and ask “Who is this again? What do they have to do with this” and cross-reference before I could continue on.  I also found it hard to connect with anyone.

Overall, between the number of characters and the slow plot, I didn’t find myself as drawn in as I wanted to be. Meh, I’d give this one 3/5 stars.

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Jessica and Chandra read this one too!  Keep reading to see what they felt…

What Chandra Thought: 

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3.5 / 5 Stars

A river that has claimed the lives of several women in a small town claims the life of another – a single mother of a 15-year old girl, she flings herself off a cliff into the river below, leaving behind questions and a metaphorical shovel to dig up the past to find the answers. Her sister, who has been away for several years, comes back to take care of her niece, never wanting to have to return to a place that caused her considerable heartbreak. Secrets come to the surface, lives get torn apart, healing begins and questions become answered.

Let me just say that Paula Hawkins is the queen of throwing a zillion things at you to the point where you have absolutely no idea what’s going on, but keeps you needing to know what’s going to happen and then pulls it all together at the end. I don’t know how she keeps track of everything enough to tie it all together at her endings. There are a lot of characters that we are introduced to in this novel and we see through most of their POVs, sometimes have the same scenes revisited through a different pair of eyes. She does this, going from past to present, in a way that’s fairly easy to follow. There are definitely some twists you see coming from a mile away and other nuances thrown in that you wouldn’t expect. You get a little bit of everything for the price of one! Winner!

However, I will say that I did feel it ran a little slow for me at times. It didn’t really surprise me when things were revealed. I just did a little, “Oh, ok…”. Not that there is anything wrong with that, I was just a bit underwhelmed with the whole thing. Was it because I saw most of it coming? Was it because of all the hype and anticipation after her success with The Girl on the Train? Probably a smattering of both. Still an excellent novel by all accounts but I didn’t find it as compelling as her first. I’ve debated on the rating and at the end I’m going to have to go with my gut and present a 3 1/2 star rating. *I reserve the right to change my mind at a later date (but I probably won’t.*

Big thanks to Riverhead Books and Astoria Bookshop for this advanced copy in return for my honest review.

 What Jessica Thought:

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After much debate, I’m giving this book 4/5 stars. I was bouncing back and forth between 3.5 and 4, however, since I enjoyed the different perspectives and the mystery of “The Drowning Pool”, I’m sticking with 4 stars!

In a small town, there is a river that has taken the lives of many women. The newest one, a single mother of a 15 year old daughter. After the death of Danielle (Nel) her sister Julia (Jules) has to come back to her hometown to identify the body and help her niece. While trying to answer all of the questions surrounding her death, many old secrets come to the surface – that could destroy lives and even help with healing old wounds. The biggest debate of all, did she jump or was she pushed?
I very much enjoy the writing style of Paula Hawkins. The jumping from different perspectives, the revisiting of the same scene through the eyes of someone else, and how you’re never quite sure what’s going on. It felt slow at parts. I had some trouble getting into the book. It absolutely amazes me how Paula can weave these intricate stories with all of these characters, and somehow have everything come together at the end. Definitely some twists thrown in that you weren’t expecting!
I guess what I recommend, is going into this with an open mind and not comparing it to her debut, The Girl on the Train. It’s a crazy debut to follow, and I think that this one was great, but in a different way. It wasn’t the fast-paced ride that was The Girl on the Train, but instead, it was a more sophisticated, twisting and intertwining narrative of characters and timelines.

12 thoughts on “Book Review: Into the Water (Paula Hawkins)

  1. Great reviews. I loved Girl On The Train, so I can’t wait for this one, I skipped over the synopsis so I will be going into it fairly blind:)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wasn’t crazy into The Girl on the Train either but I thought it was because I read it so long after the “hype” but I’m thinking maybe it was the actual writing because this one didn’t do it for me either! I didn’t hate it but I wasn’t into it either. SO strange. Glad I’m not the only one!

      Liked by 1 person

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