Never a dull moment

2017-06-22 06:01
Into the water

Into the water

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THE many fans of The Girl on the Train will be eager to read Hawkins’ second thriller; and this one is no disappointment. In some ways, it is better than her first — tightly constructed, complex, dizzyingly bewildering, often horrifying, an undoubted page-turner. Its many sub-sections are each headed by a character’s name, and each section involves either first-person narrative by that character or third-person by the author.

Either way, the reader is constantly being given differing accounts and viewpoints of what is happening.

Hawkins plays much with the fact that memory is unstable and liable to reinterpretation, and that people see the same events very differently.

For example, three characters might bump into one another, and the encounter is described, and interpreted, in three different successive ways.

Characters recount and interpret their own feelings and reactions very differently from how other characters see them.

It is like a hall of variously distorting mirrors.

And its characters are nothing if not startling — most are dysfunctional, tormented by guilt or anger or desperation, of different ages and temperaments, and all in a terrible spin over the latest death in the small English town where it all happens.

Several deaths have occurred in the so-called “Drowning Pool” in the local river, the earliest death mentioned being that of a girl, centuries before, who was drowned on suspicion of being a witch.

One or two characters feel that the pool has been a place for “getting rid of troublesome women”, and although some of the deaths in it look like suicide, all have proved, sooner or later, to have been murders.

There is never a dull moment in this novel.

And if it presents a problem for readers, the problem may be that it is too complicated, with too many reinterpretations and too many twists in our expectations.

All such things may be true to life, and mostly make for gripping reading.

But some may find it too tangled

That said, it is, like life itself, a fascinating kaleidoscope, and carries the genre of psychological thriller to considerable lengths.

• David Pike is a retired academic, formerly an associate professor in classics at UKZN. He enjoys choral singing and classical music in general, ancient and modern literature, mythology, drama and rugby.


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