It has been a long time since I read a novel in one sitting. Books of genuine quality rarely allow themselves to be devoured with such velocity, the density of the prose and the depth of the characters forcing the reader to slow down and reflect. However, a decent holiday read is almost by definition lighter and quicker to consume. It is a cheap and cheerful Pinot Grigio as opposed to a quality Sancerre. Personally I am partial to both but if my wine consumption is unfortunately bargain basement, I try to keep my reading material a little higher up the food chain. And that is nothing to do with literary snobbery – it is simply self-preservation. A book I can’t put down, I won’t put down. That means sleepless nights and torches under the duvet – cute in an Enid Blyton boarding school, less so with a 7am alarm call and a job requiring the energy levels to deal with multiple exuberant teenagers.
But this week I have legitimate holidays allowing for a legitimate holiday read. And “Into the Water” by Paula Hawkins is the perfect lazy day story.
The novel is undeniably flawed but infinitely readable. A sequel to the hugely successful “The Girl on the Train”, the plot is engaging and while not exactly gripping, suspenseful enough to keep you guessing.
The narrative centres on a foreboding body of water known locally as “The Drowning Pool” where a series of local women have lost their lives. The stories of these women and the people closely associated with them are what form the heart of the mystery. Is this water “simply” a suicide spot, or are there even more sinister actions at play? Predictably the stories of these “troubled women” intertwine and overlap and, to be fair, the plot keeps twisting and turning at pace. There are in the region of a dozen different narrators and yet they are surprisingly easy to keep track of. However, with so many characters and no clear protagonist, it is hard to invest too much in any of them. So you may enjoy this book (I did), but you are unlikely to laugh or cry.
The central premise, if anything can really be seen to be central, is that memory is unreliable and there can be versions as opposed to singular truths in all our lives. I get this. I identify with this. A “perfect” wife with a sinister core, an abuser with a heart, a violent tyrant who loves his children, a “good” man seduced by an intriguing beauty, a loving sister who spat the cruelest of words and a social worker who couldn’t listen when it really mattered. The flaws, the flaws. The humanity. The reality!
And so what we have is an interesting look at one community that comes under a microscope after the death of local resident Nel Abott. Secrets are gradually revealed and twists in the tale are frequent. The blurb describes it as an “urgent” and “satisfying” read and the adjectives are apt. It is not a classic but it is a worthy read for a long afternoon when a storm roars outside, for a long train journey through familiar terrain, or for a day by a pool with a cocktail. It won’t change your life but it is not a waste of a tenner either!!! My advice is to give it a go. xo