Review: Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

Synopsis:
‘Julia, it’s me. I need you to call me back. Please, Julia. It’s important . . .’
In the last days before her death, Nel Abbott 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 . . .

Let me start by saying I adored The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins and I’m surprised at myself for having not read this book earlier. I picked up Into the Water in a charity shop a few weeks back for £1 and what a bargain that was because the book is absolutely brilliant. It’s definitely a late contender for my favourite thriller of 2020 and I binged it very quickly.

One of the things I enjoyed most about the book was the multiple narrations, which was surprising since, at first glance, I thought I’d hugely dislike this setup. The book is told from the perspective of an entire community, which I thought was a refreshing and thoughtful way to write. The opening page details each of the narrators and how they’re relevant to the story of the Drowning Pool. Early in the book, I had to keep referring back to that page to remember who was who, but I soon began to understand the structure of the secretive and disconcerting community.

I felt that, by having so many narrators, Hawkins added further suspense and intrigue to the book, particularly because many of the narrators seemed unreliable and disorientated as they were all dealing with grief in one form or another. As with The Girl on the Train, Hawkins is very successful in weaving unreliable accounts with intriguing characters and secretive plotlines, all of which creates an enthralling page-turner that can be easily devoured in one sitting.

The cast is very big in Into the Water, meaning you didn’t get to delve as deeply into the characters as much as you would usually with a fiction story. However, for me, the town of Beckford was a character in itself and this was only made possible through the exploration of a large group of its residents. I found that none of the residents were particularly likeable, but the town itself was absolutely fascinating – spooky & eerie, but oh so engrossing.

Another element of the novel I enjoyed was the ending, which was much quieter than I’d expected. With a thriller, I usually expect a huge bang at the end of the story and, as the culprit became obvious quite early on, I found myself anticipating another shocking twist. As I moved through the last couple of chapters, I was surprised that this didn’t come, but enjoyed the fact that it didn’t; it’s something different that made the book stand out from many of the other thrillers I’ve read this year.

I also adored the premise of the book and could get behind Nel’s obsession with the Drowning Pool, as I too found its history and the links to witchcraft absolutely compelling. Hawkin’s is so successful at weaving in the history of the town with everyday issues, including bullying, inappropriate relationships and what constitutes consent.

As a big fan of thrillers, I found Into the Water hugely enjoyable and would highly recommend it. The twists and turns are enough to keep you gripped, yet it’s also beautifully written so that the crazy doesn’t overshadow the quieter moments of the novel. Paula Hawkins also has such a way with words, so it’s no surprise that her books are wildly successful.

Goodreads rating – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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