Lead Review

  • Book: Into the Water
  • Location: Northumberland
  • Author: Paula Hawkins

Review Author: tripfiction




Into the Water is the much anticipated new novel from author Paula Hawkins. How do you follow up on the success of The Girl on the Train? Where do you go next? That must have been such a daunting prospect for the author….

This low key thriller is set in fictional Beckford, Northumberland, centred around the Drowning Pool. It is here that Nel Abbot’s body has been found, drowned, leaving behind her teenage daughter Lena. Jules, Nel’s sister, descends to take up the reins of care in the aftermath. Jules and Nel had not spoken for many a year which makes everything rather difficult.

Nel, however, is not the only person to have drowned – a history of demonic practices goes right back to the point when perceived witches were bound and dropped in the water – if they floated they were guilty, if they drowned they were innocent of witchcraft. In fact, two further people have drowned in the last few years, whose stories also become part of the narrative. It certainly is a novel of weird and wonderful countryfolk, focussed on watery deaths, with just a little nod to Twin Peaks. As Erin, the policewoman and incomer muses: “Seriously: how is anyone supposed to keep track of all the bodies round here? It’s like Midsomer Murders, only with accidents and suicides and grotesque historical misogynistic drownings instead of people falling into the slurry or bashing each other over the head.” Having a character capture the nub of the book is an interesting and arresting technique! And, yes, that is essentially what the book is about.

There are eleven characters who voice the story (I didn’t count, I saw this number cited in other reviews). Developing a story with several points of view is certainly a challenge and I felt slightly daunted by the early references detailing the wealth of characters populating the novel. I therefore dutifully wrote down the names and their relationships as I read, just in case. But I don’t think you really need to do that, they meld, they become individual for the most part. The whole story is an exploration of relationships and whether the deaths are murders or accidents.

The book is constructed like a circular eddy, reflecting the motion of the water in the Drowning Pool – the characters, too, go round in circles, and can descend into a troublesome mêlée of characters who chew over the cud, struggle with relationships and show their violent natures.

The bookcover very much reflects the content, the circling water and a very reduced palette of colour. The story is bleak and indeed colourless, it is almost a story written in monochrome and can become quite introspective. Yet it does have something about it! It won’t have the success of The Girl on the Train because I suspect it won’t have the wider appeal, it is gloomy, and although the writing is excellent, it feels as though there is a lack of energy, a depression, which again reflects the events. Interesting up to a point but not for everyone.

In TripFiction terms Northumberland is the setting, but apart from a few references to Beckford being an hour away from Howick or Craster and the odd mention of Newcastle and Gateshead, it could really be set anywhere.

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