Friday, July 6

Into The Water - Paula Hawkins

This book reminded me quite a bit of another book I read last summer, which unfortunately had the advantage of having a more attractive front cover but also an altogether more interesting plot. That book was Sarah Perry's The Essex Serpent. This novel: Paula Hawkins' Into The Water, has been acclaimed as a follow up to yet another markedly better book The Girl On The Train. Despite the accolade surrounding it's publication, I hadn't read Hawkins' other novel, and so I went into this one without any real thoughts. Unfortunately, I didn't come out of it with any either.

The nub of this one echos a lot from The Essex Serpent: Troublemaking quirky-yet-fanciable heroine, small-town secrets dragged kicking and screaming out of an ominous body of nearby water, and an overwhelming feeling that no-one in the novel is really that likeable.

I read Into The Water on the nine hour flight to Punta Cana in one fell swoop, thanks in part to the fact that the opening is pretty good: Mysterious voicemails from somebody found dead at the bottom of the river. Spooky historic deaths of gritty women in a frankly hazardously located and unhelpfully named 'drowning pool' at the foot of a plot-convenient cliff. A local police chief who I suspect would be played by Jamie Dornan in the inevitable TV adaptation: it's all there. It even touches on quite a few bone-sharp feminist themes: most notably, why women (in fiction, and in life) seem to need to suffer in order to protect men who have done them wrong. There's a part near the end that really digs a knife in this point and jabs it around. In fact, if you can manage the many many multi-character perspectives to the narrative (it was convoluted, but I didn't hate it) then most of the novel is good.

It's just that the ending was a bit pants.

For one, there's this weird [spoiler] apologist moment which seems to go totally unchecked and is presented with zero irony. There's a totally out of whack Scooby Doo-esque villain reveal that feels totally unconvincing. Then there's a "shock ending" which just felt pretty meh? It was a finale I didn't expect, partly because I thought it was going somewhere better.

I don't usually do the 'light summer reading by the pool'-thing, so maybe my expectations were too high. To be fair, if you like a book that's a puzzle, you may well enjoy it more than I did. I just didn't think the pieces made a pretty picture.

Good if you liked:
The Essex Serpent, The Fall, Broadchurch, The Sinner, most ITV dramas

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