This past summer, my friend Brittney and I went to Montauk for a long weekend. We spent one of our vacation days in East Hampton, where we made an appointment to get our nails done and have a fancy lady day. We had an hour or two to kill until our appointments, so we (of course) went to Book Hampton, where, after much discussion of how we had somehow missed out on reading it, we both bought a copy of Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train.
We finished that book over the course of that day, spending our time getting our nails painted wishing we could be reading and then returning to Montauk to sit outside at a cafe in complete silence and just read. For me, personally, the last 40-50 pages got a bit too melodramatic, but by then, I was hooked, and I needed to know how it ended.
Cut to just two weeks ago, when Riverhead announces on Instagram that they’re giving away copies of Hawkins’s new book, Into the Water. All you have to do is comment on the post and tag a friend. I tag Brittney in the post and she replies with an excellent comment about our adventures in Montauk reading The Girl on the Train. By that afternoon, we had won galleys of the new book and Riverhead had won our hearts forever.
The books arrived just this past Friday afternoon, mere hours before I hopped on a bus to go visit Brittney. It was kismet. We (of course) spent most of our Sunday sitting in silence and reading Into the Water and assorted comics we had picked up that morning, and I finished up the book just this past Monday.
Into the Water recounts the death of a woman named Nel Abbott, who fell, jumped, or was pushed off a cliff in her rural English town, landing in what is charmingly known as “the Drowning Pool.” Just months earlier, a local teenage girl named Katie committed suicide by throwing herself from the very same cliff. And these women are just two of the most recent in a centuries-old history of “troublesome women” who have killed themselves (or been killed) in the Drowning Pool.
And that’s only the beginning.
I felt very much the same about Into the Water as I did about The Girl on the Train (though I liked the ending of Water much more). I’ve now accepted that I have a complicated relationship with Paula Hawkins, whose prose can be absolutely beautiful, but whose plots can become a bit predictable, just a tad ridiculous, or simply a little overly dramatic. But her gorgeous writing and the engaging story always drag me right in, and her stories refuse to let go until I’ve untangled the mysteries for myself, even if the mystery itself is a bit bananas.
Into the Water features a number of characters telling disparate stories and half-truths that finally wind themselves into a neat ending. Every character has hidden stories and ulterior motives and twisted relationships with the others in their tiny town, and it did sometimes get confusing to keep track of which details were real, which stories were imagined, which tales were embellished, and which facts were actual facts. There were times where I absolutely should have been taking notes to keep up with the wide cast–which includes characters like Nel’s tormented little sister, Jules, and her teenage daughter, Lena; Katie’s mother, father, and little brother; the local cop and his gross, misogynistic father; and the local psychic/witch/possible con artist–and the number of twists and turns that eventually led to the mildly unsatisfying finale.
Still, I found myself reluctant to stop reading even when I had to (to go to sleep or to work, for example) and I know that if and when Hawkins writes a new book, I’ll be begging for an advance copy again.
Have you read Into the Water? Were you on board with the hype for The Girl on the Train? Let’s talk Paula Hawkins in the comments.