The tranquil river that runs through the town holds a dark secret. It has claimed the lives of multiple women, including a vulnerable teenage girl and a single mother.
The deaths stir up buried secrets and expose the treacherous depths of difficult emotions and hidden memories.
In her gripping novel, Paula Hawkins takes us on a thrilling ride through the murky waters of the past and present, revealing the devastating consequences of secrets long kept hidden. Prepare to be captivated and immersed in this urgent and twisting tale that will leave you shaken.
In this discussion guide, we’ll have a look at some book club questions for Into The Water and why it’s a must-read for anyone looking to get the most out of their reading experience and dive deeper into this edge-of-the-seat thriller.
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Book Club Questions for Into The Water
- The strength of this novel is its fascinating quasi-historical fiction streak, particularly in the journal entries interspersed throughout the book. The way Hawkins uses vivid descriptions of the town and its locales is definitely exhilarating.
If you get a chance to meet Hawkins in real life, what are some questions that you would ask her personally? Also, do you think this is a worthy second novel for an author who wrote “The Girl on The Train”?
- Jules’s past trauma, her mother’s death, and her bulimia, leads her to be emotionally guarded and distant from others. She has a complicated relationship with her sister Nel, which becomes clearer throughout the novel. Jules’s trauma causes her to see situations and people only from her perspective, which makes it difficult for her to connect with others. However, as the story progresses, she begins to come to terms with her past and develop relationships with Lena and other characters, which helps her move forward in life.
What’s your take on the way life post trauma has been dealt with in the novel?
- Lena’s character is defined by her guilt and grief. She blames herself for Katie’s death and feels responsible for her mother’s death as well. This guilt and sense of responsibility are what drive her to investigate and uncover the truth about both disasters, leading her to be involved in situations beyond her control. Lena’s guilt also affects her relationships with others, making it hard for her to trust them and causing her to lash out at those she feels are responsible.
How do you think this issue of guilt plays a role in Lena’s character development?
- The female characters in this novel are often pitted against each other, blaming each other for various events. This mistrust and blame ultimately cause more harm than good and prevent these women from working together to solve the mysteries surrounding the deaths in Beckford. Their relationships are also impacted by societal pressures and expectations, including motherhood and beauty standards.
Do you agree? Also, did you expect a much better portrayal of such characters in this novel?
- Erin’s outsider status as a Londoner and a lesbian affects her experience in Beckford. She faces hostility and suspicion from the townspeople, who view her as an outsider and may be more likely to defend Sean and overlook his conflicts of interest. However, her outsider status also gives her a unique perspective on the town and its inhabitants, allowing her to question the town’s assumptions and biases. Erin’s past relationship with a younger colleague is also used against her by Patrick, who accuses her of abuse of power, highlighting the double standards and prejudices that exist in the police force and wider society.
From a reader’s perspective, what’s your take on this character Erin?
- Louise blames Nel for her daughter’s death and mistrusts other women, believing that they are “troublesome” and responsible for the problems in her life. This attitude reflects the patriarchal mindset that women are to blame for their own victimization and that men are inherently good and trustworthy. Her failure to recognize the true cause of her daughter’s death, the inappropriate relationship with her teacher, highlights how societal attitudes can blind us to the truth and prevent us from seeing the real source of harm.
Do you think this character of Louise has played a role in perpetuating harmful societal attitudes towards women?
- Nickie Sage’s character contributes to the story by adding an element of mysticism and ambiguity. She is a resident psychic who claims to be descended from witches. She has a greater understanding of the truth than most residents of Beckford and ends up indirectly involved in multiple deaths over the years.
Do you think Nickie’s character highlights the role of superstition and the supernatural in shaping people’s beliefs and actions?
- The characters in the story challenge gender norms and stereotypes in various ways. For example, Nel, Jules, and Lena are all women who refuse to be controlled by the men in their lives and choose to assert their own agency. At the same time, the novel also shows how societal expectations can have a negative impact on men, such as Sean and Josh, who struggle to reconcile their own desires and emotions with the expectations placed on them by society.
What’s your take on the way Paula Hawkins balances out male and female expectations in the novel?
- On one hand, Nel’s mother’s bracelet serves as a physical representation of Nel’s spirit, which is absent upon her death. As the truth about Nel’s death begins to be uncovered, the bracelet appears in various forms, often functioning as a clue or a symbol of Nel’s presence. On the other hand, the bracelet also serves as a catalyst for the events that lead to justice for Nel. Helen’s possession of the bracelet brings Erin and Jules to her doorstep, and ultimately leads to Patrick being jailed for multiple killings. By possessing the bracelet, Helen keeps Nel’s spirit with her, even as she tries to go about her regular life.
Discuss this multifaceted approach taken by Hawkins regarding this particular bracelet in the novel?
- Nel’s quest for the truth about Lauren Townsend ultimately leads to her own death, and her pursuit is characterized by a single-minded obsession that blinds her to the complexity of the situation. The other characters also struggle with their own self-perception, as they attempt to understand their relationships with Nel, with each other, and with the various tragedies that have occurred in Beckford.
How does the theme of self-perception tie into the overall plot of the novel?
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