Paula Hawkin’s debut novel, ‘The Girl on the Train’, was a runaway success both as a novel and a movie and really, deservedly so – it had all the required elements for a good old fashioned whodunnit plus some fabulously flawed characters, especially the lead. I read it and quite enjoyed it, and because of that I picked this up in a charity shop while hunting costume jewellery for BeckyandVince.
So. We have two sisters, Julia (Jules) and Danielle (Nel), previously estranged for years. A small Yorkshire town with a mysterious pool reputed to be where ‘witches’ were drowned in the Middle Ages, and where an inordinate number of women have since cast themselves to their own deaths by drowning. Including Jules’ older and far more glamorous sister, Nel, at the beginning of the book… or so it appears. An aunt meeting her niece Lena, the two sole remaining members of their family, and their initially fraught relationship. And several ‘sub-stories’ going on, some of which were more interesting than the main one, as well as throwbacks to when the sisters were younger and excerpts from the book Nel was writing. It’s all happening, but I’m afraid for me it didn’t quite mesh together – there was TOO MUCH happening and not enough substantiation.
In my opinion there were opportunities missed to flesh out some of the more interesting sub-stories. The only one having a satisfying conclusion for me was when Jules finally goes to confront Robbie Cannon who raped her as a very young girl – he was Nel’s boyfriend at the time, and the fall out from this incident was the end of the two sisters relationship as far as Jules was concerned.
Too many characters, too many diversions, and a frankly lacklustre finish for me. I gave this volume away on my market stall with the words ‘I really wasn’t impressed’, and honestly, there are so many truly great books I want to read that I’m not sure why I wasted an afternoon on this except that it was a sunny day and I was sitting in the garden with my feet up not wanting to think too hard about anything! To be fair, it wasn’t as bad as ‘Neanderthal’.
In my view, the master of this particular genre is P.D. James. I know she is a little dated now, but in terms of bringing the characters of a small English village to life and gradually building the suspense towards an unforgettable ending, she is simply the best. Go find an Adam Dalgleish novel and you’ll see what I mean. Some big boots to fill to be fair, and I really don’t believe Paula Hawkins has quite got the shoe size yet based on this book. Paula, should you come across this…read P.D. James!
Definitely not a recommendation. Read ‘The Black Tower’ by P.D. James instead. First published in 1975 and as fresh and thrilling now as it ever was.
Have a lovely day! Becky X