Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

This month’s U3A book group choice was Into the Water by Paula Hawkins and I’m very pleased to share my review today as I simply didn’t get time last week when we had our meeting.

Into the Water was published by Penguin way back in 2017 and is available for purchase through the links here.

Into the Water

The addictive new psychological thriller from the author of The Girl on the Train, the runaway Sunday Times No. 1 bestseller and global phenomenon.

In the last days before her death, Nel called her sister. Jules didn’t pick up the phone, ignoring her plea for help.

Now Nel is dead. They say she jumped. And Jules has been dragged back to the one place she hoped she had escaped for good, to care for the teenage girl her sister left behind.

But Jules is afraid. So afraid. Of her long-buried memories, of the old Mill House, of knowing that Nel would never have jumped.

And most of all she’s afraid of the water, and the place they call the Drowning Pool . . .

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, satisfying read that hinges on the stories we tell about our pasts and their power to destroy the lives we live now.

My Review of Into the Water

Nel has drowned. 

Into the Water is an absolute maelstrom of a book. Reading it is akin to being in an eddying whirlpool where you hardly know which way is up. There’s a primeval sense of threat, of evil and deception running through the pages so that every character feels like an unreliable narrator and truth is difficult to grasp. Having seen the character list at the start of the book I was filled with dismay because I feared I’d be unable to keep tabs on who was whom. This didn’t happen. They all felt distinct and equally unlikeable, untrustworthy and fascinating. 

The plot is as sinuous and fast flowing as any river and I think what works so effectively in Into the Water is the sense of human powerlessness in the face of water’s power and our obsession with its ability to harm and heal. Paula Hawkins weaves together the iterative image of water; fluid truth, release and death incredibly skilfully. If the reader substitutes the word ‘truth’ for ‘water’, the complex cleverness of the book becomes even more apparent.

Although the fast paced plot revolves around the motif of water and events at the Drowning Pool over several centuries, spiced by an undercurrent of the supernatural through Nickie, it is human relationships, particularly that between Jules and Nel, that make Into the Water such a gripping read. Our assumptions about the lives of others, our mis-interpretation of their words and actions, our overlaying of societal norms and expectations are just some of the themes Paula Hawkins explores. There are dark and disturbing aspects that add to the sense of menace highly effectively. I thought the way Nel is at the heart of the action even though she is dead was deftly handled too. 

I found Into the Water an unpleasantly mesmerising and gripping read. I think it will probably divide readers but as I’m about the only person who has neither read Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train nor seen the film, I came to Into the Water with no expectations and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

About Paula Hawkins

Paula Hawkins worked as a journalist for fifteen years before writing fiction. Born and brought up in Zimbabwe, Paula moved to London in 1989 and has lived there ever since. Her first thriller, The Girl on the Train, has been a global phenomenon, selling 23 million copies worldwide. Published in over forty languages, it has been a No.1 bestseller around the world and was a No.1 box office hit film starring Emily Blunt.

Into the Water, her second stand-alone thriller, was also a global No.1 bestseller, spending twenty weeks in the Sunday Times hardback fiction Top 10 bestseller list, and six weeks at No.1.

For further information, visit Paula’s website or find her on Instagram.

2 thoughts on “Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

  1. This is one I have had on my TBR for years, in fact, I have a copy on bookshelf upstairs. Great review, Linda. Maybe it is time I finally pick it up and read it.

    Liked by 1 person

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