We should start with a fact to put this review into perspective. The first book by Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train, now a major motion picture, has sold a staggering 20 million copies worldwide, and that meant tremendous pressure on the author to come with a cracker of a hit with the second book. And it’s often said – the second book is the hardest to write. For starters, I wasn’t too impressed with The Girl on My Train which the publishers marketed as the next Gone Girl. For me, that went against the book (which I might have liked otherwise). So when I got this book from my publishers (a signed first edition no less) I wanted to like it. A signed book is a beautiful thing. It’s a gorgeous hardcover book with a haunting jacket in blue and black. I loved the spot UV and the velvety feel of the book. So far so good.
Saying anything about the plot would give details away but here’s the blurb of the book:
“A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.
Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she’d never return.”
Piqued? So was I and dug into the book minutes after I laid my hands on it.
Now coming to story. It’s told from the point of views of several different characters (over ten), some in first-person and some in third, and this narrative style is what works tremendously for the book. Some of the characters really come alive, especially 15-year old Lena who’s wonderfully written. You feel you know her, and she infuses a lot of much-needed drama into the proceedings. Though there is a host of other characters to whom you don’t feel attached to, and that takes away a lot from the book. There are no mind-boggling, Higashino-type twists in the book but it’s not that kind of book. It’s more about the characters and the dysfunctional relationships, the secrets they keep and the lies they tell, and that’s why I felt the book could have delved into a few characters a little more, make me love or hate them a little more. The story also throws back to stories of the other women who had died on the lake which was famous for swallowing up ‘troublesome women’ (suicides and cold-blooded murders) but there are too little of them. The instances are quite chilling and come right when your interests slacken. The imagery in the book is spot-on though. The lake takes a life of its own, a throbbing, seductive monster. It’s the most terrifying character in the story.
This book won’t grip you in a didn’t-sleep-the-entire-night sort of way but it’s a quick read nonetheless.
You can get the book here.