Posted in Books, murder mystery, Reviews, Thriller

Book Review: Into The Water – Paula Hawkins

So I was thinking about how I was going to approach this review and I thought about being neutral about it and keeping what I really thought to myself, but then I remembered something: This is MYblog, not some editorial piece where I am obligated to be diplomatic about my opinions. So below is an honest review of a book that everyone seems to think is great but I found somehow…unsatisfactory.

Let me just say this about the author: she is a damn good writer. Even when I struggled with the plot, even when nothing made sense, I kept going because the prose was just so damn readable. I have a weakness for books where the writing just flowed and I’ve probably stuck by books with plot holes the size of the hole in the ozone layer purely because I was enamoured of the writing.

So books like these, just like Paula Hawkins’ debut The Girl on The Train, capitalise on confusing their readers right? That’s fine. But it seems to me with this book that the author is confused herself; she couldn’t quite figure out whether she was writing a thriller, a murder/mystery or a fantasy novel.

As a result, there were a lot of things that were thrown into the plot that I thought were completely unnecessary. They muddled things up so much that in the middle of the book, I found myself asking ‘what in the hell is the plot?!’ and ‘what is the point of all of this?‘ and also, do I really care enough about these hateful characters to see this thing through to the end?

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I did finish the book, by the grace of God. 

The plot centres on the Drowning Pool, a river in the town of Beckford. I’m not sure if this town is fictional but its supposedly set somewhere in England and probably not a place I’d go visit anytime soon. Anyway, this pool has claimed a lot of “troubled” women’s lives going back to the days when witch trials by water were a thing.

The latest in this long line of victims is Nell Abbot, mother, neighbour, friend and sister to Jules. Nell was obsessed with this pool’s history and the true story behind each woman’s death, and in the process of uncovering the truth she sets off a chain of events that lead to her broken body being found in the very pool she found fascinating. Did she jump? Was she pushed? How did she come to be there?

I find it really sad that the book did not live up to the promise of its premise. There were a lot of things wrong with it but I think it all boils down to the lack of a tighter plot.

I tend not to read reviews prior to reading a book because it tends to colour my own opinions of it, but I gave in to temptation with this one and I agree with the general consensus in the reading community that the cast of characters in this book was simply too big. When the inevitable Hollywood film adaptation comes how are they going to afford to pay all those actors? In addition, no one was likeable in this book. So you have a bunch of characters that no one really cares about running around town making a mess of things and as a reader, you just don’t see the point.

Don’t get me wrong, each individual backstory was quite interesting. The teenage suicide, the troubled family, the rebellious daughter, the sister with a turbulent history with the victim…taken separately they were strong storylines. But together they just didn’t make sense or add to the overall narrative of the story in my opinion (it felt almost like you were reading two books). You could have taken out one arc and the main plot line would have still come to its inevitable conclusion.

And the conclusion itself, well, these things always have a plot twist don’t they? And the most interesting thing about this book is that the plot twist is that THERE IS NO PLOT TWIST.

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I saw the end coming from a mile away and it was heavily hinted at a third of the way into the book. I didn’t like it. I like being taken by surprise when I read these things; even if I’m usually clever enough to make good guesses I still get satisfaction from being taken on a journey to discover the truth. There was none of that satisfaction here. Totally predictable.

Anyway, thank goodness I bought the hardbound edition of this  book for a steal in one of the Oxfam charity shops because I would not pay 18 quid to buy this. It was so-so at best, and if anyone wants my copy you are welcome to it.

Overall rating: 2 stars

Posted in Books, Reviews

Book Review: Behind Her Eyes – Sarah Pinborough

I’m sorry but this is not going to be the most coherent of reviews. My emotions after reading this book and its ending can be summed up in three words:

My apologies for the expletive but there can be no other reaction to this utter mindf***of a novel. I cannot believe that the author actually went there. Towards the end, I wasn’t actually sure what kind of novel I was reading; the only thing I was sure about was that the characters in this book are all totally batshit crazy.

Mild spoilers ahead people! 

Okay so it starts out as a normal thriller. Lonely divorcee Louise meets rich, handsome married psychiatrist and has an affair with him. The other complication? She also strikes up a friendship with his beautiful wife Adele. As she gets entangled in their complicated marriage and the secrets of their past, Louise finds herself unsure of who she can trust. Her lover who has violent tendencies but seems to be so gentle when he’s with her? Or her new best friend who seems to only want what’s best for her?

I honestly don’t know how to even write this review. As I power read through the chapters I find myself growing more and more confused; at one point I thought for sure that this was going to be like John Cusack in Identity and that they were all really one person with one hell of a  multiple personality disorder and a clusterf*** of a life. I could not understand where the author was going with the narrative. This book’s whole marketing campaign had apparently been all about the “twist” and how it had “the most shocking ending you’ll read all year”.

Well, let me tell you something about that ending. 

Fine, okay. It managed to get a reaction out of me. My mind was completely blown, I can’t deny that. But if I think too hard about it, it doesn’t actually make any sense! And what’s even stranger is that in a weird sort of way, after you think about it a little more, it kind of does make a little bit of sense. I can’t explain it without giving it away but its the kind of twist that will generate a lot of discussion and will surely polarise readers; some will hate it, others will go gaga over it. I’m not a huge fan of it myself, but it sure added layers to the story and if you suspend belief for one second (or more) it does kinda grow on you.

Okay, there’s more to review than just the ending. There are some themes in this novel that number among my least favourite literary tropes. Infidelity, for example. I have really strong feelings about cheating and I think that there’s never any justification for breaking your marital vows. At the same time I’ve always been determined not to judge other people who have extra-marital affairs mostly because, having never faced that kind of situation myself, I can never fully say how I would react to the prospect of an affair with a married man. Love and lust can make you do crazy things after all.

And there it is. At the heart of this crazy, strange and utterly psychotic story is the fact that love for another human being can make you do things you wouldn’t normally do. Think about a mother who would give her life for her child, or a friend donating a kidney to a dying friend; love is at the heart of all those things, and when that love becomes all-consuming, when the other person becomes the one thing you see and value to the exclusion of everything else (even yourself) I think that’s when love becomes dangerous.

On a slightly lighter note, I think that this novel is also a cautionary tale that people should just MIND THEIR OWN DAMN BUSINESS. Some of the things that Louise did in this novel made me cringe. I mean come on, there’s busybody and intrusive, and then there was Louise in this story. Her reactions to certain situations were so annoying that I was screaming at the book as if I could get through to her. I mean there are a lot of things that I would do for a friend but she’s crossed so many lines in this book that I cannot even begin to describe it. And Louise is supposed to be the sane and sensible one in this story. That tells you a lot about how crazy the other characters are.

Anyway, to read this book and enjoy it you just have to be prepared to take it as it is and not dissect the hell out of it. Its escapist reading at its finest certainly, and it will sure take your mind off your problems at work or the flu you’re nursing (or your broken heart). I almost wish we could have picked this for book club meeting next month because I can already imagine the kind of fiery debate that this book will generate. But alas, this choice was vetoed by other members. I’m still thankful to the book club members who recommended this to me, though. I can’t say that I’m totally happy with it, but I sure enjoyed it enough to finish it in only 6 hours.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars because okay, that ending was actually good the more I think about it. Lol. Kudos to the author for thumbing her nose at naysayers and just going for the unexpected, no matter what!

Get this book for a good price on Amazon by clicking on the image below.