Book Review: Into the Water – by Paula Hawkins

Book Two Into the Water

Pages: 356

Box Ticked: A book that scares you

Paula Hawkin’s debut novel “The Girl on the Train” divided my book club. They either loved it or hated it. Always wanting to be my own person, I had a love-hate relationship with it. I loved the premise (I am definitely one for people-watching and making up

Paula Hawkins Authorimaginary lives for them in my head – although definitely not to a stalker degree), I loved the style (fast-paced and gritty), I loved the setting (having lived in London for a short period I always love a bit of nostalgia); but I loathed the main character, Rachel. I think maybe it’s because I don’t drink, and Rachel drank A LOT! She was also annoyingly pathetic. There’s only so much wallowing in self-pity I can take and I myself am a real wallower. But anyway, the big takeaway from “The Girl on the Train” is that in a Paula Hawkin’s novel, everyone is going to have secrets!

Although also a suspenseful, psychological thriller, “Into the Water” has a very different feel to “The Girl on the Train”. Although I probably could have read it in one sitting – it does grip you and pull you in – like the slow winding river at the story’s core, the narrative unveils itself at a much slower pace and you find yourself wanting to turn the pages slowly and unravel the mystery gradually. It’s hard to know where the story begins but we’ll start with Julia (or Jules). She grew up spending summers in the Old Mill House in the small northern village of Beckford. Beckford doesn’t have much, except for a river, and a disturbing history of women who have lost their lives to it. Julia’s older sister Nel, with whom she had a torrid relationship, was obsessed with the river and its secrets; and has now become part of its mystery herself – she has fallen victim to the river.


They say she jumped, but Jules knows that Nel would never have jumped – even though she left her a panicked and distressing voicemail just days before her death, a plea that Jules ignored. Dragged back to Beckford and memories that Jules has spent years trying to forget, she must try push all of that aside They don't all jumpto look after Lena, the teenage daughter that Nel has left behind, who seems convinced that her mom did jump, and is struggling to come to terms with feelings of abandonment. Nel was far from popular in the small town, where she was working on a book detailing its history, specifically that of the river and the mystery surrounding why it attracted such hopelessness and despair. She was not short of enemies, is it possible there is something more sinister to her death?

The story is told from the perspective of each of the characters, whose lives become more and more enmeshed as the story progresses. It is told with such grace and dexterity that Hawkin’s really does have you guessing from page to page who is embroiled with who; who knows what; who jumped and who was pushed? Once again, the characters are flawed, but not beyond hope. Jules suffered intense trauma as a child, while staying in the old Mill House, that is so inter-woven into her relationship with her sister Nel, she has somehow never been able to overcome it, and now she must face the reality that she will never have the opportunity to. We only know Nel through her description from others and the picture painted is a complex one. It is up to the reader to draw their own conclusions, and I love this. In fact, there are so many moral grey areas in this novel, your heart could grow weary if you let it.

The River

I categorised this as “a book that scares you” because I tried to read it last year, but I had to stop. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the book itself, but as you may know if you have read some of my other blog posts, I lost my best friend to suicide last year and the subject matter was hitting a little too close to home. When I couldn’t decide whether or not I was ready to giveThey aren't all pushed it another go, a lady in my book club took my hand and said something that she said my mom had told her about the book when she was struggling with it herself: “Not everyone jumped, and not everyone was pushed.” I was scared going in, but that gave me hope. Right down to the last page, I wanted to know everyone’s story.

Ultimately, I felt that this was a book about love; about who we love and why; and about what love makes us capable of doing. There was one particular passage that stood out for me that I wanted to share:

p.210 “Lena sat motionless, staring at the river outside the window, not crying and not speaking. I had nothing to say to her, no way of reaching her. I recognised in her something I used to have too, something maybe everyone has at that age, some essential unknowability. I thought how odd it was that parents believe they know their children, understand their children. Do they not remember what it was like to be eighteen, or fifteen, or twelve? Perhaps having children makes you forget being one.” Jules

Although Jules is speaking specifically about the unknowability of teenagers, I don’t think it’s something we ever grow out of. I think that, no matter how much you love a person, you can never truly know them, and so when something as awful as a suicide happens, you can never blame yourself, no matter how close you were to the person. They had that unknowability about them. Something that you couldn’t touch; that you couldn’t reach; that you couldn’t fix. No matter how much you loved them.

The Drowning Pool Hand

It’s a little bit of a scary read, but it’s a rewarding read. They didn’t all jump and they weren’t all pushed.

Rating: 4.5/5



Welcome to Crescent Clinic, Enjoy Your Stay


This was never meant to be a travel blog, but as I really hit my stride behind the keyboard during our honeymoon road trip and then swiftly dropped off the map thereafter, to the casual observer, that’s all my blog looks like; a review of places to stay and things to do. And this just so happens to be another review of a place to stay and a thing to do. Only this one comes with a twist.

I posted last July about my tendency to sometimes slip into depression. But I didn’t touch on it again. Even though my depression was steadily getting worse. I think conveniently, I wasn’t noticing. I had a giant wedding to distract me and a road trip to look forward to. That’s the tricky thing with depression you see. High functioning mental illness can lull you into a false sense of security that you’re actually ok, when really you’re very, very NOT ok. When you can still get out of bed (most days), put your face on, get yourself to work, put in a (half decent) shift, go about your normal evening routine… everything feels a bit sluggish, there’s a greyish tint to the display, the sound clarity is a bit off, but you’re getting by. You’re not reaching for the razor blades. You’re ok. But you’re also not.

I'm Fine

This was me for much of last year. Yes, even though my life, on the face of it, is perfect. Please, for fuck sake, do not remind me of the many, many reasons I have to be happy. I descended into the spiral that would eventually drop me off at rock bottom at the end of October. You also don’t need to point out that this coincides with my wedding. My therapist, psychiatrist and many friends and family members have already helped to point that out, but more on that in a later post (maybe). My psychiatrist, who I have been seeing for thirteen years now (yes, I single-handedly financed her children’s private school education) first recommended admission to a psychiatric clinic in early December. My first response was shock and denial. Surely I can’t be that bad? We hadn’t reached Cuckoo’s Nest, Girl Interrupted levels of crazy, had we? By mid-December I had moved from denial into bargaining. I couldn’t go into a clinic at Christmas.

I was hoping to feel better over the Christmas break. Then I could blame work and just get a new job (I say it like that would be easy, but it sure felt easier than going into a psych ward at the time). But if anything, the razor blades just started looking more tempting. But by the time my I saw my doctor again I couldn’t even contemplate admission because my mom was visiting from the UK and I couldn’t waste precious quality time with her in a place where they only allowed two hours of visiting every second day of the week. February brought a better excuse – my birthday – even better, it was my 30th. We were hiring a jumping castle. Hubby was making me a marble glaze ninja turtle cake from scratch. I had friends coming from another province.

Bother People

But some days I also felt like pulling my car over into oncoming traffic; or accelerating into a brick wall. Or going into a really dangerous neighbourhood to see if someone might kill me for my cellphone like the stories you hear on the radio. Maybe I could swallow all the pills in the house, lord knows we have enough. Or do we? How many is enough? Or I could jump off a building? But how high is high enough? Knowing my luck, I’d end up a vegetable, in a whole new world of depression.

My birthday party was on the 11th of February. It was one of the best days of my life. I was surrounded by most of my favourite people, my favourite foods, my favourite music and I made some special memories. Most importantly, I decided I would go to the clinic for the 21 day programme that I should have gone for at least three months prior. Because those people deserve the best version of me. I deserve the best version of me. And I wasn’t going to get it by just muddling through.

And so, on Monday, the 13th of February, the day before Valentine’s Day, and six days before Hubby’s birthday, I checked into Crescent Clinic. Mum still had eight days left of her holiday.

Upon arrival, it looked like a hotel. I was instantly feeling simultaneously at ease with anxiety levels through the roof – a state of being I am all too familiar with. Once all the formalities were completed I was shown to my room. Now I had by no means been expecting five star living, despite the fancy furniture and fresh flowers in reception, but nor was I expecting the communal dormitory in which I found myself. Five beds. One bathroom. Gasp. Anxiety out of this hemisphere.

I arrived late in the evening and so my first day was just an underwhelming dinner, followed by meds, awkward chit-chat with the roomies and some reading before bed. I had a doctor’s appointment scheduled for the next afternoon at 2:30pm. In the morning, I was assessed by an occupational therapist who assigned me to the ‘blue group’ and gave me a time table of courses. Now this was something I could work with. Scheduled classes and group therapy sessions discussing a variety of topics and teaching healthy coping mechanisms centred around weekly themes. This week’s theme: relationships. The first class: boundaries. We were a match made in heaven.

My head

I met with my psychiatrist, Dr Sheldon Zilesnick, a friend and former colleague of my usual psychiatrist, in the afternoon. He is a specialist in temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) my primary diagnosis. Between them, they believed my symptoms were largely down to uncontrolled seizures. As soon as the epilepsy was under control, the depression would be under control. I didn’t have any clinical symptoms as such. There is nothing wrong with my life. I don’t have any childhood traumas. This is a chemical battle. But he would get me a psychologist to meet with during my stay as that was typical procedure.

Depression FeelsI met with her the next day. Her name is Deirdre Hartley, and in short, she broke me. She both ruined and saved my life, all in one. In three short weeks, she showed me what was wrong with me and what was right with me. I have had more “Aha!” moments in her office than anywhere else combined. She ripped my world apart and is slowly showing me how to put it back together. She tipped my diagnosis on its head. My problem may have been chemical, but I am facing a very real internal battle and it is only just beginning.

Crescent Clinic both saved my life and changed my life. I found out that they have rooms that are less communal and that if you ask the nurses nicely they will change your room (after they find you cowering in a corner ugly crying). I found out that the food is very inconsistent, but if you’re not a fan of rice, you’re going to be very, very hungry. I found out that they can give you a day pass to go home to celebrate your husband’s birthday. I found out that drum circles can give you a natural high. I found out that I’m a blue and that it’s a good thing to wear a mask.

I found out that just because someone loves you with all they have doesn’t mean they love you the way you needed to be loved at that time in your life; and that that’s not your fault, or theirs, it just is. I learnt that as human beings we crave purpose and connection but that often we sacrifice our individuality for the sake of our relationships. Only through self-awareness can we accept ourselves for both who we are and who we are not and begin to act with conviction and assertiveness.

Right, that’s enough buzz words. What does this all come down to? Here it is. Life isn’t all sunshine and roses, but it shouldn’t be razor blades and overdoses either. You shouldn’t even have to settle for a fuzzy picture or slightly distorted sound. You deserve to live in HD. If you’re not getting the most out of your life, don’t let the stigma of mental illness hold you back. Don’t wait until you’re planning your own demise to ask for help. The rooms are comfortable, the food is tolerable, the healthcare professionals are outstanding, the programme is life-changing. Welcome to Crescent Clinic, enjoy your stay.


Like a mist it descends…

Misty Road

It descends on you like a cloud; or that killer mist from Mount Weather in The 100. You don’t even see it coming. It creeps up on you so slowly, you’re completely unaware it’s even on its way at first; but eventually it arrives. And suddenly you’re drowning in it, gasping for air, but too exhausted to wave your arms about in the hope that someone can rescue you. And then you’re wondering if you even want to catch your breath. Maybe it would just be easier to drown.

Happy Outside Sad Inside

Depression. Statistics say it’s more prevalent than obesity. But it’s an invisible killer. You can see fat people; but it’s hard to pick out the truly sad ones, those who are one wave crash away from drowning. We hide it well you see, because that’s what you do. If I was bald from chemo or had a gimpy leg we could discuss it. If it was diabetes or epilepsy, I could at least bring it up. But not the “D” word, no. That doesn’t even make it to the tip of your tongue.

And why, if it’s so goddamn prevalent? Maybe if we all talked to each other about it, it wouldn’t be so bad. But instead we’re all so busy pretending to be ok that it’s eating away at our souls, one conveniently packaged treat-sized bite at a time.

Anxious Face

This morning started well. A lazy Sunday was in store. The weather was a bit bleak but Joburg winters generally call for snuggling under the covers. I had TV shows to watch, wedding invitations to assemble, scarves to knit, blog posts to write; I never saw it coming. But two invitations in, watching the very show that inspired our entire wedding theme; and I felt my hand hovering over the self-destruct button. I swiftly retreated to the safety of my bunker (laptop, in bed) and disappeared into Scandal. But I felt it weighing more heavily by the second.

Eerie Pic

Husby came in to check if I was ok. I could only shake my head in answer. “What’s wrong?” he asked. “Nothing”, I replied. Because that’s the brutal truth of it: nothing is wrong. I have countless reasons to be happy. I’m getting married in four months for fuck sake. I live in a beautiful house in a beautiful country and I have beautiful friends. I have TV to watch, scarves to knit, blog posts to type; and yet I want to kill myself. If there was a button on the table that could end it all, I would have pushed it long ago. And the worst part is, I have no idea why.

The brain is a complicated organ (or is it a muscle?) It has been studied from every vantage point imaginable; but still so much about it is unknown. At the moment I am going for Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR), a therapy designed to enable the brain to heal itself by reprogramming how you react to certain stimuli. A progress report will follow, but so far all it’s done is make me cry a lot, and remember things I worked very hard to forget.

Among friends and family (and increasingly, work colleagues), I have a reputation for being over-sensitive, for over-analysing and for caring too much. Is this just a way of saying that it’s my fault? If I could learn to care less, “live in the moment” instead of the past or future, then I wouldn’t be depressed. But… feeling things deeply is who I am. Getting invested in my emotions, heart and soul, for better or worse, is who I am. So is depression who I am?

All I know for sure is, the next person who tells me to “snap out of it” or “think of all the things I have to be happy about”, is coming with me when I push that button!

Mist Bench