Into the Water by Paula Hawkins – Review
By Karl Hornsey
Paula Hawkins was catapulted to fame by the phenomenal success of her first novel The Girl on the Train. So much so, that any subsequent releases are bound to be compared to it. Of course that is palpably unfair, given that it’s always hard to follow something so big, whether that be a second book, second album, or second season at a football club.
Sadly though, in a similar way to how the film adaptation of The Girl on the Train was a dull anti-climax, so Into the Water is a confusing, overly complex and difficult read. As a standalone book, it simply doesn’t work; in light of the hype, that makes it doubly disappointing.
I’m generally a fan of thrillers/whodunits, so this should have been right up my alley. But the decision from page one to tell the story from the points of view of not just one or two people, but more than 10, means that from the outset there is simply no flow to the book, no perception of an increasing tension, leaving, in my case, a slightly bewildered feeling trying to grasp what was going on and who was doing it.
“Few occasions when I started to care what would happen”
This wasn’t through my lack of concentration or desire to make this work, but not only were there too many characters, they were so one-dimensional and some of them only appearing in passing, that it was hard to care about any of them. I actually think the story would have worked in the traditional sense of a single narrative as there are some decent ideas, but there was never any acceleration in pace due to the constant change of narrator.
Maybe there was a rush to capitalise on the success of The Girl on a Train (there, I’ve mentioned it again), but even the premise of the novel being set in the north east of England never seemed real or thought-through and the added storyline alluding to witchcraft left me even more baffled.
Yes, there were a few occasions when I started to care what would happen, but these shafts of light were quickly snuffed out and my attention started to wane as the characters still showed little sign of being worth investing in.
Paula Hawkins is clearly very talented judging by her first release and even some of the ideas in this novel, and maybe having got the dreaded second book out of the way, the third offering will be a huge improvement. I just feel this one should be consigned to history, and offer the best of luck to anyone inevitably trying to turn it into a Hollywood blockbuster.
‘Into the Water’ by Paula Hawkins is published by Doubleday, £20, Hardback