Review: Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Average Goodreads Rating: 3.6 / 5 stars

Readers be warned….Do not crack the spine on this book when you have plenty of Into the Waterthings you should be doing instead of reading. If you have a long list of to-dos, don’t think you’re going to sit down and casually read a chapter or two of this book, and then pick it up again tomorrow. This book will consume you from start to finish. From the moment I started this book, till the last page, it became my only priority. I had an insatiable need to find out how it would end.

I will also warn you that this is not Girl on the Train 2.0. They are very different books. Girl on the Train was a tautly wound thriller. It was fast paced with endless twists and turns; a roller coaster ride of a mystery. This on the other hand, falls more into the domestic noir category. It’s a slow burn mystery, that peaks your interest in the beginning with the town’s tragic history, then slowly digs its claws in deeper and deeper. Where I would describe Girl on the Train as exciting, I’d describe Into the Water as haunting.

Into the Water is set in the small English town of Beckford, a town plagued by drownings. Beginning during the witch hunts, women have been drowning in the river that runs through town. Within just a few months Lena Abbott loses both her best friend and her mother to “suicides” at the drowning pool. Neither of these women seemed to have any motive to jump to their watery deaths and the town can’t help but wonder if maybe they didn’t jump at all; maybe they were pushed.

Why I loved this book…

No one is to be trusted. What Hawkins does best in her book is to make the reader question every character they meet. There’s a pretty large cast of characters, none of them likable, and none of them should be trusted. The first 50 pages is devoted to introducing each character. We receive a bit of their back story, but more importantly we get a bit about their relationship to the two deaths. By the end of part one, each character had a clearly established motive as to why they may be the killer. Hawkins truly is the master of the red herring.

The history of the town is just as scary as the current crimes. Nel Abbott, Lena’s mother and one of the “jumpers,” was working on a book about the Drowning Pool before her death. In the book she tells the story of each of the women who met early deaths in the river’s waters. Excerpts from her book are woven throughout the story. I adored these sections. There’s talk of the witch hunts and women whose ghosts still haunt the town, lending a creepy, supernatural vibe to the story.

The setting has a very cinematic quality to it. This book has already been optioned to be made into a movie and it is easy to see why. The setting, hauntingly beautiful, will translate so well to screen. On top of the river, and the lush nature that surrounds it, I enjoyed the quaint small town. By setting it in a sleepy village, rather than a big city, it really makes it feel like everyone is connected and everyone’s histories are intertwined.

This book will make you think. It will make you think about the stories, and sometimes lies, that we tell ourselves. One of the themes of this book is the idea that our memories are not necessarily truth. Sometimes over time we change things in our mind from what actually happened. Sometimes we only remember things from our perspective, and don’t have the full picture. And sometimes we don’t know what is a memory and what is nothing but a dream. The deaths of these two women start to make the entire town question what they thought they knew and admit things aren’t always as they appear on the surface.

Why you may not love this book…

There are many, many point of views. This will be people’s main complaint about this book I believe. I personally really enjoyed this aspect. For one, it means you get lots of little secrets and lots of perspectives on what happened to these women. It also helped to make everyone so suspicious. If we hadn’t been in their head, and heard how they felt about the women, they may not have seemed so guilty. Finally, the many point of views is what makes this such a quick read. Each chapter is only a few pages long, each focusing on one individual’s point of view. To keep the story straight, you almost have to read this book quickly.

Some of the violence is pretty disturbing. It wasn’t necessarily graphic but it did make me uncomfortable at times, and could even be triggering for some. For example, there is a scene of animal abuse that I found hard to read about. However, in the grand scheme of the book it all makes sense and never felt gratuitous.

The ending felt just a bit rushed. I guessed the ending about halfway through (*pats self on back*) but I was never totally sure if I was right. I thought she did a great job of slyly dropping clues throughout, then ramping up to twist as we got closer to the end. The big reveal comes at the very end and it would have been nice if she dug a little deeper into the motive. By ending it in the manner she does, the motive is left up for interpretation.

If you are looking for a book that will suck you in from start to finish, a book with an atmospheric setting and shady characters, this is the book for you. Set aside a day where you can do nothing but read and get fully lost in this mystery.




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