I’ll start this one off by making something clear – I enjoyed this book and I think Paula Hawkins is very talented. But, having said that, I do feel a bit sorry for her as an author. I imagine she feels like Hugh Grant’s dad in About a Boy, who wrote that really successful song and spent the rest of his life trying to top its success with a better one. It’s like when Nirvana stopped playing Smells Like Teen Spirit, but some of us like Smells Like Teen Spirit and unfortunately, it’s the general consensus that it is their best song.
Personally, I thought Girl on the Train was amazing. I know a few clever cloggs managed to figure out the twist before the end but sorry, I wasn’t one of you. I liked Girl on the Train so much that I wish I hadn’t already read it, just so I can have that experience of reading it for the first time all over again. This, I think, is the sole reason that I finished Into the Water by feeling a little bit…flat.
Into the Water follows quite a similar formula to Girl on the Train, in that it is told by different people’s perspectives and the reader has to piece all of this together to follow the story – and I do think this is a great way of building the suspense and keeping the reader’s interest. However, Into the Water it told by about six different perspectives, and that of some additional quite minor characters, so I must admit I spent the first two thirds of the book referring back to the ‘who’s who’ guide which sits before the prologue. Sorry, but if your reader is still doing this two thirds in, there are simply too many main characters to keep track of. Each character, no matter how minor, had a rich history to them, which in itself is absolutely not a bad thing (quite the opposite), but when you have so many main characters there just is not room for such depth to each one and it starts to weigh quite heavily on the reader’s head. The plot had more complexities than Girl on the Train as well, because it includes flashbacks to completely different eras as well as different characters’ past experiences, so it was just a bit too much to follow.
The plot itself was great, a lot of things happened early on that made me think ‘no way is this going to be made relevant at the end, there’s no chance that all of these pieces are going to come together’, but they did. Paula Hawkins would not get seven years of bad luck if she dropped a mirror because she’d piece that glass back together perfectly in less than an hour – I have no doubt about that. I do however feel that there wasn’t a need for some of the sub plots, for example I don’t think Helen needed so much of a role in the story, and the whole conflict between Nell and Jude didn’t feel that relevant to the overall mystery. It felt to me like their conflict was there to justify Robbie’s place in the story, and he seemed to exist only as a means of throwing the reader off the scent of the actual killer – much like the therapist in Girl on the Train. But, having read Girl on the Train first, I was too familiar with Paula Hawkins’ mind games. So, even though on paper Robbie seemed like the obvious culprit, I knew that the obvious one would turn out to be totally irrelevant in the end, and he only seemed to feature a couple of times in the story. My logic was that if he was in any way important to the ending, he would be featured in it far more than he actually is, so when Jules went to the garage to challenge him over his involvement, the tension just wasn’t there for me.
On the whole I did enjoy Into the Water, but it followed the typical plot of this genre so personally I found the twist very easy to guess and the mystery very easy to solve. But, the success of Girl on the Train must have created immense pressure for the author, and it definitely wouldn’t put me off reading anything she publishes in the future. Even though you know what’s coming, Hawkins’ ability to draw the reader in and make you see, smell, hear and feel the surroundings that the character does means I will still be spending many a Sunday afternoon getting lost in her characters’ worlds, as long as she keeps creating them.