Into the Water

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review.

The Girl on the Train was a phenomenon. Paula Hawkins’ follow up novel, Into the Water, was hotly anticipated. Given the chance to get my hands on a copy, I jumped all over it.

But it’s difficult to live up to that kind of hype, for a different book to stand on its own merits when compared to the achievements of its juggernaut of an older sibling.

I could not finish with Into the Water fast enough.

Sadly, I don’t mean that as a compliment. This book fatigued me.

tom tired

Nel Abbot, single mother of a teenage daughter, has been found dead in the water at the bottom of her garden. The river that runs through the little town she lived in has claimed the lives of a number of women for years. Two months earlier, a 15 year old girl had drowned herself in the water. Nel herself had been fascinated by the water, the stories of the “troublesome” women that found their end in its depths, and had been working on a book telling their stories.

What happened is told, piece by painstaking piece by a variety of residents in the small English town including: Nel’s estranged sister, angry at her over something that happened years and years ago; Nel’s daughter, who has been keeping all kinds of secrets from everyone; the school’s headmistress, married to the police chief, who also has secrets from his past; a teacher, who has to hide how much he misses Kate, the girl who drowned herself before Nel died.

It’s a lot.

Hawkins tries to make the point that the world is cruel to women, that historically water had been used to purify those women accused of witchcraft, that perhaps this is something that is still going on. There are any number of sinister characters in the book that could be capable of sending women to watery deaths. Hawkins isn’t content to populate the book with red herrings, or subject readers to so many first person narratives, she also has to weave a mystical element to the game.

Into the Water wasn’t a difficult read, or a long one, and yet the time I spent with it felt like I was treading water fully clothed and I was losing the battle.

I so appreciate the point that Hawkins was trying to make because the world is so obviously cruel, especially to women. But this book and it’s similarity to The Girl on the Train (memory loss, men’s power over women, unlikeable narrators) without the well-paced plot and tense atmosphere just didn’t work for me.

19 thoughts on “Into the Water

  1. hmmm I’ve got this book on my TBR shelf too. Alot of people have felt the way you did about the multiple narrators, tedious pace, etc. I heard Hawkins on Q a few weeks ago and she admitted that she doesn’t like to make things easy…perhaps she went a little too far in this case?

    • I don’t know what happened! I hoped so much that this wouldn’t happen – I saw her at event and she’s eloquent and so smart and I enjoyed the first book so much. But this didn’t have the same bite to it. I had heard the same things and still read it but ultimately, other bloggers were proven right!

      • Yah I’ll probably still read it, just to see if my opinion compares to everyone else’s. My guess is, it will probably will but what the hell might as well try…

  2. It sounds so disappointing. I try so hard not to compare a second book to the first. Most of the time it’s impossible. Especially when the first book was so awesome. A blessing and a curse for the author, I suppose.

  3. This one seems to be a big fat dud. I got it from the library and read 10 pages before sending it back. I’d already heard from a couple trusted blogger friends that it wasn’t great, so I didn’t have much motivation to push on through.

    • I wonder if I did it a disservice by comparing it to the first novel. I don’t normally – I’m able to take each book on it’s own. I think had this book been decidedly different, I could have done that. But it was sooooo similar in many ways.

  4. I avoid them, but I’ve definitely read many book reviews who have read books full of people who all have secrets in their past. I’m not sure if I’m a goody two shoes or what, but I don’t know anyone who’s hiding mountains of secrets. I mean, maybe things they worry the rest of us would judge them for, but yeah, not secrets in the sense that the reveal would be life-ruining.

    • hahahaha no I definitely don’t know anyone that’s keeping life destroying secrets. Probably. Actually, I feel like my family is the kind of family that might have some dark secrets. It’s fun to read about them even though sometimes it’s hard to believe.

      • I think because I was raised with a mom who was dead-set on honesty no matter what, I feel highly skeptical of anyone keeping any secrets. I was just raised as such a Girl Scout! 😳

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