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Paula Hawkins’ Novels: The Girl on The Train/Into the Water

Jorge Sette By Jorge Sette Published on June 29, 2017
This article was updated on July 20, 2017

(Contest closed)

It’s contest time! We’re giving away 6 autographed copies of Paula Hawkins’ latest page turner, Into The Water. All you have to do is read this article and leave a comment at the end telling us what you think of her books. That's it! Enter by July 19 and you’ll get a chance to win 1 of 6 books.

Movies and TV shows used to be heavily influenced or inspired by books. Now things seem to have changed and it is the other way around. Bestselling authors will have probably sold the rights to the movie version of a book before even putting the first word down to paper. As a consequence, there are a number of formulaic devices – commonly seen in hundreds of horror movies and thrillers – which these writers tend to incorporate into their novels to make the transition from paper to screen more seamless. The plot – with its twists and cliffhangers – is king. Language choices, careful considerations of style and tone, and more in-depth analyses of what makes human beings tick have all become secondary in the process. Characters are also hardly tri-dimensional.

Effective authors, however, can get away with it, keeping us glued to the story, although more sophisticated readers may realize they’re probably using a preset template to write their books. Within the limitations these authors set themselves, they sometimes produce surprisingly powerful and relevant texts. This is certainly the case of Paula Hawkins’ novels. Both The Girl on the Train and Into the Water, her recently published domestic noir books, may not be great literature in the classic sense, but they are certainly undeniable page-turners.

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Paula Hawkins was born in Zimbabwe and now lives in London. Having worked as a journalist for more than 15 years, her debut novel (the first under her own name), The Girl on The Train, has sold more than 18 million copies, in 50 countries, having been translated into over 40 languages. It was then inevitably turned into a major movie. That has set the bar too high and the pressure for the author to follow up with another successful novel is huge. Into the Water, her second book, is, however, bound to become another bestseller, as few of the fans of the first novel will resist reading the second.

Similarities and differences between the books

They’re both suspenseful novels, with compelling story lines, involving crime, substance abuse, and violence against women.

Plot summaries

In The Girl on The Train, 32-year-old Rachel Watson has just been left by her husband and lost her job due to a serious drinking problem. She spends her days taking the train from Ashbury to Euston in the morning and coming back in the evening, trying to hide from her roommate the fact that she no longer is employed. From the train window, she usually sees an attractive young couple in the garden of their house near the tracks, whenever the train stops at a certain signal. She fantasizes about them, imagining they have the perfect life. Down the same street, she can also see the house she used to live in before. Her ex-husband Tom is now happily remarried to his former lover Anna, and they have a kid. Rachel cannot stand their happiness. Things turn unexpectedly dark when the attractive young woman she used to see from the train window goes missing and a police investigation gets started.

Into the Water is set in a small village in the middle of nowhere in the wild region of Northumberland, in the northeast of England. Over the centuries, local women seem to be tempted to commit suicide by jumping off a cliff into a special section of the murky river that cuts through the region. However, Nel Abbott, who used to live there as a child, goes back to the village with her teenage daughter to work on a project about these mysterious deaths. When she starts digging for information, asking questions and making discoveries, the secretive members of this quiet community get unsettled. Nobody seems to like her. Nel reaches the conclusion that the women who drowned in the river were not troubled but troublesome. Could they have been killed? Then Nel Abbott herself drowns and the police will need to investigate.


From Oliver Sacks, in Hallucinations:

We now know that memories are not fixed or frozen, like Proust’s jars or preserves in a larder, but are transformed, disassembled, reassembled, and recategorized with every act of recollection.

The quote, used at the beginning of Into the Water, summarizes the main theme of both novels: the unreliability of memory and the different ways in which we perceive and interpret facts at different times in our lives. In the case of Rachel Watson, from The Girl on the Train, alcoholism may be the main cause of the distortions. In the novel Into the Water, earlier psychological traumas linked to physical and mental abuse are to blame.

Sexism, violence against women, desire, patriarchy and its unfair norms are also pervasive themes in both novels. However, the reader should not expect any in-depth discussions, as – important and relevant as those issues are – they are used here as a means to an end: the telling of an exciting story. They serve the plot.

The structure

In both novels, the use of short chapters that end with cliffhangers makes for easy and compulsive reading. Plot points are well marked and sharp twists veer the story in unsuspected directions. These devices also make the novels very cinematographic, with chapters working just like movie scenes.

A rotating style, in which each chapter is voiced by unreliable narrators (sometimes using the first person; other times, the third) is employed. However, while in The Girl on The Train we hear the story from the perspectives of three women, Into the Water has 11 narrative voices, which can make it hard for readers, at times, to follow the plot and distinguish who is telling what, especially because the voices are not markedly differentiated by the use of specific vocabulary, personal style, or levels of formality.

Trains and rivers

Of course, trains and rivers represent flux, mobility and psychological transformation. Water also has mythological associations with the subconscious, the hidden and the instinctive. All these connections and symbols play important roles in the plots of those novels. Trains and rivers also allow for the shooting of dynamic and visually compelling scenes, when the book becomes a movie.

Have you read The Girl on The Train? Have you read Into the Water? Share your opinion with us.

Terms and conditions

* Employees of Bookwitty or Keeward are not eligible to participate.

* One entry per comment and per pen name will be accepted.

* Any comment containing abusive, hateful or threatening language will be disqualified from entry.

* Any comment deemed as spam will be disqualified from entry.

* A confirmation email will be sent to each participant.

* Entries will be accepted from 9:00 AM EST July 5th, 2017 until 11:59 PM EST July 19th, 2017.

* The winners will be selected by random draw on July 20th, 2017.

* The winners will be notified by email on July 20th, 2017.

* The winners' pen names will be posted on Bookwitty's Facebook page and Twitter account on July 20th, 2017.

Jorge Sette is Bookwitty's Regional Ambassador for South America. He represents the company, writing relevant content for the region, recruiting contributors, contacting partners and ... Show More


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Nicola Parkinson
I read the blurb to this only yesterday, said to myself it sounded amazing turns out I said it out loud when the lady next to me looked and grinned! Loved The girl on the train, total head spinner. Thanks for an amazing giveaway!
April Turner
I loved The Girl on the Train the suspense; the suspicion and the confusion I just couldn't put the book down.I haven't read Into The Water yet it sounds intense and mysterious can't wait to read it. 
Girl on a train was a great depiction of a strugle with addiction and mental illness and the ways in which both can affect every day life, while Into the Water explored the after math of a potential suicide - both were moving accounts leaving you hoping that the protagonists make it through.
Caroline Poole
I have read The Girl On The Train, really enjoyed it, and that's my comment really, we read to escape, enjoy, learn and experience, just read!
Janie Boyd
I loved Girl On The Train and can't beaut to read Into The Water!! I'd love a signed copy. 
Stephanie King
I haven't had the chance to read either one, but they both sound awesome! Definitely on my list!
Marion Allart
I'm french, and i read The girl on the train last summer when i was waiting for my plane in Miami. Great suspense, amazing end, Paula Hawkins became one of my favorite writer, it was breathtaking 
Mandi Frazee
Really enjoyed Girl on the Train, suspenseful and a page-turner. Looking forward to Into the Water, hoping it's just as good.
Beth Cave
I enjoyed both the book and movie of The Girl on The Train. I look forward to reading Into The Water. 
Melanie Linsley
I couldn't put The Girl On The Train down! The main character was not likeable at all, which - to me - was a sign of great writing. I met Paula Hawkins at a writing event last year and she was asked what she thought about the film being set in America (this was before it had been released). She was very positive about it. I hadn't expected to like the film before this (the film is never as good as the book, right?) but went into it with an open mind and really did enjoy it. I haven't started Into The Water yet, but it's set in my part of the country so looking forward to reading it 😊.

Sarosh Ahmad
If one could sense every bit in the story then writer is simply a winner. It is the proof of good heights in writing skills.  After reading the article, i may state that We are approaching to the newest marvels in the genres of writing. 
Paula Hawkins won me over with "Girl On A Train"  Mystery is not usually a go-to read for me although after reading Paula Hawkins I am hooked and very happy she has written another book. Into The Water,  is safely packed in my suitcase and will be accompany me to the cottage.  She and I will spend some serious time at the lake sipping wine and losing ourselves in her latest mystery, I can't wait.  Happy summer everyone, keep on reading.
Megan Winans
I usually figure out/have a pretty good idea about twists in mystery/suspense novels but Girl on the Train completely stunned me! However what I love most is her complex characters, where we root for even flawed ones like Rachel. 
I love Paula Hawkin's writing style.  I found The Girl on The Train easy to read and really interesting with twists and turns.  I would love to read Into the Water!!
Rachel Holt
Honestly, I couldn't put Girl on the Train down because of it's cliff-hanging chapters and intense plot. I can't wait to see if Into the Water is the same way! :-)
Lynne Rapson
I found Girl on the Train absolutely riveting! I read it in two big sessions. If the resume above of Into the Water proves accurate, I can't wait to read it!
Netania Lim
I enjoyed reading The Girl On The Train because of its humanness and its ability to make me think. It was definitely a page turner, and I'd love a copy of Into The Water to see if it's one as well!
Monica Kilian
I loved the book Girl on a Train -very suspenseful and kept we wanting more after each chapter and guessing the ending! Fabulous read! Paul Hawkins style of writing is fabulous with the flawed women characters she depicts as well as the short chapters which makes for easy reading! Very much looking forward to her new novel Into The Water!  Thank you for this fantastic contest and would love to win!!!
Suzie Jay
I loved Girl on a Train and I not only read the book but I also listened to the audio book and watched the movie. I can't wait for the new one and the blurb is even more exciting than the first.
Sandy Yusman
I found both of Paula Hawkins' books to be page turners, though I had the same feeling after finishing both in that on the whole they are actually rather underwhelming. They are not books I would gush about to friends. Her writing style is also not one that touches your core. It is absolutely hitting the nail on the head to say they are not literary pieces. In saying that she does get some credit for her ability to draw her readers in and keep them reading to the end.
Hanadi Nasser
I kept thinking, analysing and rehashing The Girl on the Train for days after finishing! Rachel is so flawed and so raw, it's hard not to relate, was with her every step of the way on that train, feeling every emotion...and here I am overthinking again!
Kate HJ
I have to say I really hate comparisons between books by the same author. Part of the reason people are disappointed in books and movies by the same people is that they are expecting a repeat experience from the first one they read or saw. I'm looking forward to the new one, and will not be comparing it to the first.
Mary Lewis
I heard about Girl on the Train from Paula's agent about 6 months before it came out and knew I had to read it. I ordered a first edition, signed copy and read it in 2 days. It is still a book I recommend to thriller lovers. 
Andrea  Thompson
I have not read Into the Water yet, but have read The Girl on the Train. I loved it. I truly enjoyed how beautifully Hawkins builds suspense and tension as the story progresses. I'm so excited to see if this newest book is just as good. Thank you for the giveaway! 
Matthew Kresal
I found The Girl On The Train to be highly enjoyable and, rare for a "mystery" novel, I found myself close to the end before piecing things together properly. I suspect that's in large part due to the richly drawn but sometimes unreliable narrators Hawkins creates who are compelling in their own right. I have yet to read Into The Water but I am looking forward to doing so if it is even half as compelling as her previous novel.
I reviewed The Girl on the Train a while ago and enjoyed the tension and the flawed characters. Hawkins' latest book is on my kindle and I will hope to review that very soon.
Kristine E. Brickey
Girl on a Train definitely had me right from the start. I don't normally read much suspense, but Paula Hawkins hooked me into her writing. I'm looking forward to reading her next novel.
Christine  Call
I really enjoyed The Girl on the Train.  I found Rachael Watson relatable and endearing.  I loved that Hawkins used an imperfect character for her protagonist.   I felt like she was a little bit like me. 
Glenn George
I loved her first novel The Girl on the Train. So many twists and turns that kept me guessing. The characters were all so depressing and I hated them due to Hawkins' descriptions and characterisation. Can't wait to read Into The Water. 
Gillian Dawson
Girl on a Train was a page turner of the highest order and the movie kept faith like few transitions do... I can't wait to read Into the Water and see the movie.
Candice Sawchuk
I specifically love Paula Hawkins style of writing female characters who are flawed, and multi-demensional. It's much more interesting to read about someone who isn't the standard attractive female, with her life perfectly together, who mysteriously remains completely composed through a bizarre crisis. So much more fun to delve into the life of someone who is a bit messed up and just trying to figure her s**t out. 
Daniel Sevitt
I found Girl on the Train to be a bit of a disappointment. If you enjoy thrillers as books or TV or movies then so many of the tropes of Hawkins' book are familiar.

For example one of the central plot points revolved around a mystery man left unidentified for most of the book. But the rules of these kinds of things are clear that if a person's identity is kept secret, it must be someone we would recognize. Half way through the book, it was clear that there was only one male character the mystery man could possible be. I read through to the end, really hoping that I hadn't worked out the twist 200 pages earlier. Sadly, I had. Maybe I'm just too familiar with the form, but there was just nothing original there. 

Too much relied on familiar tropes. Too much relied on drunken oblivion as a plot point. The Girl on the Train was certainly a page turner, but the train's destination was an insignificant siding, not a big-city terminus.
Clará Castaneda
In my humble opinion, you either love or hate her books. In my case, I love! Her writing style is so intoxicating, realistic and raw. She has perfected fleshing out flawed characters which are for the most part, relatable and honest. Both of her books (written under her real name) had me totally immersed and thinking of the characters months after reading them. I would love and cherish a signed copy from Paula!
Tracey Whealey
Girl on a Train answered all my  reading needs with mystery, socially real characters with major flaws, as well as a great turn of phrase and the ability to keep the page turning.  Whether, as the author posits, this means she wrote with a movie in mind, is debatable... but either way - loved the book.
Hayley M
Read and enjoyed Girl on the Train, would love to get into some of Hawkins' other novels
Sami Paul
I found I had no love for the main character until the end and then I felt shame for not liking her 
I found Girl on a Train to be the ultimate psychological thriller.  I'm looking for to reading Water. It's interesting to me that Hawkins is taking her action out of the city and into the country.  Shades of Heathcliff?
Jorge Sette
That's a very interesting point, but Into the Water reminded me of some Agatha Christie's novels rather than Wuthering Heights. Thanks for the comment.
aldenosaurus rex
I have read The Girl on the Train and I had never been that thrilled and excited turning each page while reading. I pointed my finger to every character and was deeply surprised by the revelation by the end. That emotion given by the book is a special one because it is rarely done successfully by other books and that is why I love Paula Hawkins. I am excited to read Into The Water and more of her works.
Paula Hawkins books are the reason I walk around the house screaming, the reason I clear my calendar because I will read when the book is released & why my brain is in overdrive when I finish that last page. Yes, Paula Hawkins precise writing for Girl on a Train ignited my imagination more than the actors, director, set designer and cinematographer, but it didn’t ruin me having seen their perspective. I look forward to many more books from Paula Hawkins, Mystery Thriller extraordinaire .

Jorge Sette
Great comment, thanks. I'm actually laughing out loud. Couldn't put the books down either.