Paula Hawkins’ Into The Water - Book Review

Paula Hawkins’ Into The Water - Book Review

by Ishika Sarkar

*Spoilers Alert*

“I need you to call me back. It’s important.”

Nel’s voice note, filled with anxiety, was intended to call for Jules’ immediate attention but was left unanswered as many of her previous messages had been. Jules, Nel’s sister and the only existing family member besides her daughter, had thought it was another trick to get her attention.

When the police came to her doorstep to inform what Nel has done, Jules was relieved at first, and then, she was furious; furious and afraid, because Nel had drowned in the water - Nel was a swimmer, Nel was independent and of all things, Jules was sure Nel wouldn’t commit suicide and yet she had drowned in the pool. 

Exploring the depth of psychology and the intricately tangled relationships, Paula Hawkins’ second full-length thriller novel Into The Water plunges deep into the reader’s mind. It takes the readers to Beckford, a fictional town, and weaves a story about the place and the people and about the mysterious deaths taking place in the town. 

“They never saw what the water really was, greenish-black and filled with living things and dying things.”

Book Review and Summary: Into The Water by Paula Hawkins

Into The Water by Paula Hawkins

Jules was ready for her work and was looking for her train tickets when two policemen approached her doorstep to inform her about her sister, Nel’s death. Abandoning her peaceful and somewhat settled life, Jules had to board for Beckford - a place that holds all her old and not so pleasing memories.

Add to Cart: Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

There she meets Lena, Nel’s daughter, who was not as welcoming as furious to meet her aunt, who was now her only surviving family member. Lena was well aware of how Jules had sat quite on the other side of the call when Nel was desperate to talk to her. Jules had ignored Nel all her life. In Lena’s eyes, Jules was cruel.

In Jules' eyes, Nel was cruel keeping in view their terrible childhood, the incident with Robbie, the football game, the blood on her thighs, and the disgust on Nel’s face. Jules was always sure of the fact that Nel had hated her and now was playing the victim for the sake of Lena’s sympathy and Jules’ attention. The estrangement between both the sisters hinged on one question that Nel had put up at the wrong time, in the wrong place but with the right intention.

The other important characters in the book are Mark, Louise, Patrick, Sean, Helen, Erin, Nickie. It all started when Nel died. Lena was sure she didn’t fall off the cliff. Jules was sure Nel wouldn’t commit suicide. Yet she had drowned in the pool - the same pool where she swam almost every day in her life, the same pool she had said is a place to get rid of troublesome women. It is the same pool where Lena’s friend and Louise’s daughter Katie had jumped in and Lauren was thrown.

Nel’s death paved the way for the mysterious deaths taking place in the pool. It discovered the reason for Katie’s death and it turns out Lauren had not committed suicide thirty years ago, instead she was thrown in the water. Jeannie, Nickie’s sister and also a policewoman, had drowned in the pool and she believes it was Patrick. There’s no clue, no lead that would take the investigation ahead, except Nel’s bracelet that Mark finds in the school headmistress and Patrick’s daughter-in-law Helen’s drawer.

“Patrick Townsend did for Lauren, and he did for our Jeannie, and if I’m not mistaken, he’s done for Nel and all.”

Add to Cart: Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

Misremembering

Looking back into our past, we might come across many obscure memories of both the delightful days and the clouded ones. So often it happens that we don’t clearly remember the scenes of the event but are still under its impact after decades have rolled down. Misremembering is what it is called and in this book, it contributes heavily to the plot. 

“Wasn’t there some part of you that liked it?”

The night Robbie forced himself upon Jules - an act Robbie found as a charity and Jules thought as rape - she had drowned herself in the water. Nel had saved her later and tried to be kind to her, to Jules’ surprise, and calmed her down. At some point Nel had finally asked Jules, ‘Wasn’t there some part of you that liked it?’ 

The way Nel had put it made Jules think she was talking about the rape. That event had put a crack in their already fragile relationship and, down the years, had made both of them estranged from each other. 

On the other hand, it was Sean, who saw his mother commit suicide in the drowning pool. His father Patrick had brought him up, educated him, got him married, and has protected him all his life. Sean’s mother had committed suicide because she loved another man who didn’t love her enough. In sorrow and dejection, she jumped off the cliff. 

The truth, however, was different. Jules had drowned herself in the pool and, turns out, Nel had been talking about the water when she said - ‘Wasn’t there some part of you that liked it?’ Nel was a swimmer, Jules was afraid of the pool and when Jules thought Nel was being cruel, she was actually trying to connect with her little sister. Nel had not known what happened between Robbie and Jules. She had not known what had made them drift apart. She had not known why, in all these years, Jules never called her back. 

Sean’s parents fought, then there was a noise, thunderous, and then there was silence. Sean saw his parents get into the car. He saw his mother slumping on the passenger seat. He saw blood pooling out of her mouth. Years later, perhaps, he understood there was never a man involved with his mother. Perhaps, she never jumped. 

Relationships and Promise

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins examines the relationship of people with respect to other people and the place they're staying in, i.e Beckford. The Drowning Pool, too, is holding a place in the lives of the characters - for some, it is a place to get rid of depressed women, for someone else it was a place to get rid of their crime, and for someone it was a project. The Drowning Pool stands to prove that relationships mattered. Katie died for the sake of her relationship, Nel died having the relationship. 

When Patrick confessed his crime it was clear that he was lying. And thanks to Erin and her lack of importance in any legal matter, that the truth was told but the lie was accepted. Patrick, after all, was trying to protect his son, something he has been doing all his life. Helen lived a life that had left her sleepless for the sake of Patrick and the family - though she knew it was always on the verge of falling apart. 

On the other hand, Lena, who despised Mark and wished him all the devil in the world, ended up letting him go clean for two reasons - first, Katie wouldn't have wanted Mark hurt, and second, she had promised to let him go if he gave her Nel's bracelet. Lena was among them who kept promises. For this reason alone, she had not uttered Mark's name throughout. Nobody, including the readers, know where Mark was; it wasn’t meant for anybody to know. Lena was among them to whom relationships mattered, because of which, after all that happened, she wished for an afterlife where Katie and Mark would continue where they had left. 

As pure and honest relationships may look on one side, it was equally screwed up on the other. For instance, Jules, who had spent most of her life under a cloud of misunderstanding and never gave Nel a chance; or the relationship between Sean and Helen, which never worked, instead, gave way to one between Patrick and Helen; or Nel's and Sean's relationship which was illegitimate and yet had more chances of survival; or even Mark and Katie's which looked like a sex-abuse case but was only a form of pure love. Relationships were either misunderstood or not understood at all. 

Guilt and Repentance

Jules finally, after all these years, has discovered the true cause for the breakage of her bond with Nel. And no sooner had she understood that than she took the first step towards repentance - she confessed it to Lena, all that she should have confessed to Nel. It was rather unbelievable for both of them. While Jules regretted her treatment of Nel, Lena was furious at her for the same. But finally, that worked because Jules was now the only parent-figure Lena had, and, though a bit reluctant initially, eventually she took the role willingly. 

“I told her. All the things I should have told you, how I’d let you down, how I’d believed the worst of you, how I’d allowed myself to blame you.”

It is unclear whether Patrick had chosen to spend the rest of his life in jail for the sake of Sean or because he bore within him the guilt of killing Lauren, his wife, nearly thirty years ago. Or it can be both.

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The Past

The past has a bigger role to play in a person's life than the present does - at least that's what we see in this book. From Jules' perspective Beckford is a past; and now, stirring the respectfully stable life Jules was leading, this past had summoned her. With a mind so unwilling and soul so sick, Jules did go back; and as the car kept rolling towards Beckford, her memories, which were buried deep within her, kept welling up. 

“The nearer I got to Beckford, the more undeniable it became, the past shooting out at me like sparrows from the hedgerow, startling and inescapable.”

On the other hand, Sean, a reputed policeman but an unfaithful husband, still found it difficult to look into his father’s eyes whenever the topic of his mother’s death came up. According to Patrick, Sean's unfaithfulness was something he received as an inheritance from his mother. However, the residents of Beckford and those who knew Lauren had still not completely believed Patrick’s account of the event. Yet it was true that something about the past is still alive within Sean, the incident he didn’t clearly remember, or the incident he did remember but was too meek to accept.

“I closed my eyes and I saw her in the car, reaching out for me, and I wanted to get away from her. I shrank back, but she kept coming at me and I tried to push her away.”

Nickie Sage, the psychic, kept talking to Jeannie, Nel, Lauren, and whoever died in the place. She claimed to have heard stories that no one knew because the teller is dead. True or not we don’t know, but doing what she did, she kept the past alive, she kept living in it and kept complaining that people don’t listen to her. She claimed to have known the truth and that she had told Nel about it so that she can write it down for people to know but she didn’t write it and believed only a part of it.

“She wrote down some things, but not other things, and that’s when we disagreed because she was perfectly happy to write down the things Jeannie told me when she was alive, but not the other things Jeannie told me when she was dead. Which makes no sense at all.”

Last but not the least, the Drowning Pool, both the project and the pool itself stand as the epitaph of the past. While the project resurrected the incident of Libby Seeton taking place approximately three and a half centuries ago in 1679, the pool kept alive those who jumped in it which Nickie can still touch and feel. While the project kept recalling those “troublesome women” who were gotten rid of either by themselves or someone else, the pool kept taking in a few more of them. 

In the end, Jules has got into the water finally and when the water closed over her head, to her estrangement, it did feel good - an act that symbolizes her overcoming the past, the fears, and the misunderstanding.

“Beckford is not a suicide spot. Beckford is a place to get rid of troublesome women.”

Conclusion

“The river can go back over the past and bring it all up and spit it out on the banks in full view of everyone, but people can’t.”

The Sunday Times bestseller and featuring itself on the New York Times Fiction Bestseller of 2017, Into The Water, has been another remarkable book by Paula Hawkins which has successfully left the readers in awe. However, the overall view about the book has not been only positive, but a mixed one. 

The critical reception of the book (I’ll take the liberty to compare) was not as positive as her debut novel The Girl On The Train. With eleven characters outpouring their thoughts the book is said to be a bit confusing and tiresome - enough to make the readers lose interest.

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Simultaneously, the book has also received some very positive reviews like: 

Paula Hawkins does it again! Into the Water is a moody and chilling thriller that will have you madly turning the pages. A gripping, compulsive read! ― Shari Lapena, a Canadian Novelist.

It is always said that a book must be read before it’s judged and in my opinion, Into The Water is quite thrilling. The suspense doesn’t die after the killer is put behind bars. The suspense is alive and revealed in the last few words of the last line of the book. There’s a purpose that those eleven characters serve and the plot would be quite incomplete without them. There are a lot of things that the author has conveyed only to the readers and not the other characters, which makes it even more chilling. 

Into The Water by Paula Hawkins

Add to Cart: Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

Paula Hawkins had been a journalist for fifteen years before she became a writer. Her debut novel, which is the No. 1 bestseller in the world, was published in forty languages. Her second novel Into The Water is again, as Clare Mackintosh, author of I Let You Go, says, “It’s better. A triumph.”

Her third novel A Slow Fire Burning, to be published on the 31st of August, 2021, holds the expectation of all Paula Hawkins’ fans.

“We now know that memories are not fixed or frozen, like Proust’s jars of preserves in a larder, but are transformed, disassembled, reassembled, and re-categorized with every act of recollection. —Oliver Sacks, Hallucinations”

- Ishika Sarkar

To read more article written by Ishika Sarkar - CLICK HERE


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