I’d read The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins and enjoyed it in a disturbing, Gone Girl sort of way. There are a lot of similarities between The Girl on the Train and Hawkins’ latest novel, Into the Water (2017). The characters are messed up, the men are horrible, and a woman is dead under mysterious circumstances.
Jules Abbott has been estranged from her sister, Nel, for years when Jules hears from the police that Nel was found dead in “The Drowning Pool.” In Beckford, a small town where the two sisters grew up, the Drowning Pool is a deep section of water near a bend in the river. It’s called The Drowning Pool because, hundreds of years ago, a girl named Libby was drowned as a witch for having sex with a married man when she was fourteen. In addition, there have been a number of other murders and/or suicides by women in that same pool. Hawkins continues to focus on the theme of women being unfairly punished by men.
“Beckford is not a suicide spot. Beckford is a place to get rid of troublesome women.” (89)
“If there’s two people doing something wrong and one of them’s a girl, it’s got to be her fault, right?” (332)
Nel left behind her teenage daughter, Lena, who immediately becomes Jules’s responsibility. In addition, Lena’s best friend, Katie Whittaker had just killed herself in The Drowning Pool only six months before. Katie’s parents and brother are still struggling through their grief of losing Katie. Lauren Townsend also killed herself when Sean Townsend (the current police inspector) was only a child. These deaths are all united by a book Nel was writing about The Drowning Pool when she died. They are also united by men behaving badly.
Hawkins tells the story in shifting perspectives. Each chapter is told by a different character, although the majority of the story is told through Jules’s point of view. I thought this was an interesting way to tell the story, but it made it more difficult for me to really connect with any of the characters. I was curious about what had happened, but I didn’t feel much for Jules or Lena. In fact, my favorite character was Erin Morgan, the police detective from out-of-town–an outsider in more ways than one.
On the whole, this novel kept me interested. The theme of women and children being blamed for sexual indiscretions with men twice their age (as it was for Libby) resonated with me and made me angry. That was the most powerful part of the book for me. However, the mystery was a little bit confusing, a little bit predictable, and didn’t completely draw me in. I’d say that it’s worth reading, but I probably liked The Girl on the Train a little more.
You can find all of my reviews on my blog.