This one’s a snack, not a dessert!
I read about Paula Hawkins’s newest thriller last year and have been enthusiastically waiting for it to debut. I loved her first novel, The Girl on the Train. When her second book finally came out on May 2, I snatched up a copy. Unfortunately, there was more bad in the book than good. First, the good:
Something is strange about the river running through Beckford, England besides what it’s called, the Drowning Pool. In the past, it was the site for drowning women deemed witches. Recently, however, the river seems to be the spot where unhappy women plummet to their deaths from the cliffs above.
The story begins when Jules returns to her hometown of Beckford, after her sister, Nel’s apparent suicide. Nel, a writer, had become obsessed with the river and its dark history. What’s more, Nel’s suicide is the second one in under a year. So what gives? What’s really connecting the women of the past with the ones in the present? Is it the Drowning Pool; possessed and beckoning women on the brink? Or is the connection much more obvious and far less paranormal?
Now for the bad:
Eleven different characters tell their side of selected events surrounding the river. The point of view oscillates between first person and third person, but not consistently so; Sometimes I heard what Nel was thinking. Sometimes I was told. At times the story felt like the author wasn’t sure which person she wanted to concentrate on and so focused on all of them at once. It’s too bad, too. Hawkins is a great writer with fun concepts and the ability to tell a spine-tingling tale. The gist of this story is a great one! So why didn’t it work for me? I think it’s because there was no one protagonist to root for. There wasn’t anyone I cared or had concerned for. When I read a thriller, I want riveting, pulse thumping, white knuckling through every word until that very end sequence when I have to catch my breath or pass out. I want to worry about the characters; what’s at stake? Who is out to get them? Will the protagonist succeed, etc.? And with eleven narrators for this one, 388 page novel it simply couldn’t be done.
But judge for yourself–read it and let me know what you think!