A girl, Libby, is bound by a group of men and drowned in the water as she pleads for them to stop.
sees his mom (Louise) go out at 4 AM and doesn't return until after 7 AM. When his father (Alec) wakes up, she says she was just out for milk, but Josh knows she's lying since it wouldn've have taken over 3 hours. She says that Nel Abbott
is dead, that they found her in the water after she jumped. His mom seems happy about it.
Katie, Josh's sister, died earlier this year. She killed herself in the Drowning Pool.
Jules and Lena
Julia ("Jules") Abbott's gets the news about Nel (her sister, Danielle Abbott
). She makes her way to Beckford, to Mill House where her sister lived and where they used to spend summers as children. Nel was obsessed with Beckford's Drowning Pool, the part of the river that sits underneath a cliff where people often committed suicide. Jules meets Lena Abbott, her sister's daugher for the first time.
Detective Inspector Sean Townsend
and Detective Sergeant Erin Morgan
speak with Jules and Lena. They think Nel accidentally fell. Nel was fully clothed and left no note behind. Lena disagrees, she thinks Nel jumped. Lena angrily goes to her room and cries. She thinks this was her fault. She's angry with herself and she's angry with Jules, too.
lives near the Drowning Pool. Nickie has been in trouble with the police for consumer protection reasons because since she works as a fortune teller / psychic. Nickie knows Nel didn't jump, but doesn't want to get involved with the cops.
Mark and Louise
is relieved after Nel's death. The police show up to ask questions since he was seen talking to Nel at the pub that night. After they leave, he still worries that Lena will cause problems for him.
, mother of Josh and Katie, sees Mark and they talk about Nel. They acknowledge that Louise and Nel disliked each other. Nel was working on a book about the Drowning Pool, and Louise worries Lena will still publish the book. On the street, Lena tries to talk to her, but Louise won't let her.
Danielle ("Nel"), The Drowning Pool
In an excerpt from her book, Nel writes about her love of swimming, of saving Jules from drowning when she was 17, and how she's always been interested in the Drowning Pool.
She also writes about the many lives of women who have been lost to the Drowning Pool. And in discussing its history, she begins with saying that it was once used as a place to drown witches.
Erin Morgan (Detective Sergeant) has come to help with the investigation. She's told by the Chief Inspector that Nel probably jumped. Sean (Detective Investigator) disagrees.
They note that Nel had set up two cameras by the pool as part of her research. The camera at the top of the cliff was vandalized at one point, though and is still damaged. The camera at the bottom wouldn't tell them much.
Townsend explains that Nel and Louise used to be friends, and their daughters Katie and Lena were friends. When Louise and Nel fell out over Nel's research on the Drowning Pool, Lena and Katie stopped hanging out. After Katie killed herself a few months ago, Louise blamed Nel. Erin thinks its suspicious that two women connected to each other would both commit suicide at the same place months apart.
Jules and Nel
Jules does not believe Nel jumped. Nel once said that the Drowning Pool is actually not a great place to commit suicide, since the cliff is not that high. Also Nel said that if you're serious about it, you need to dive in headfirst. When she IDs the body, she notes that Nel's feet are broken, so she did not go in headfirst.
Jules asks Erin about a bracelet from their mother that Nel always wore. It's engraved SJA (Sarah Jane Abbot). Erin says there's no sign of it.
Jules and Lena argue about Jules's relationship with Nel. Nel and Jules were estranged. Nel wanted to reconnect and called her a lot, but Jules refused. Jules replays the last few messages Nel had left her, asking her to talk, and realizes that Nel had been scared of something.
Jules recalls that she and Nel stopped getting along after an incident when Nel was 17 and Jules was 13. Years later, after their mother had passed away of an illness, Nel asks Jules a question that causes Jules to break off contact completely.
Jules also recalls the summer when she was 13. Lena was dating a boy, Robbie Cannon
, at the time who was handsome and popular. After an embarrassing incident with other kids, Jules drinks for the first time and later that day goes for a swim, which is when Nel had to drag her out and save her.
Jules finds a lighter that's engraved "LS". She remembers that when Nel first became interested in the Drowning Pool, she was obsessed with Libby. Libby was one of the witches who was drowned. In actuality, she was a (14-year-old) girl who was said to have "seduced" an older (34-year-old) man. Jules wonders if LS was for Libby (Seeton). In Nel's notes it says "Beckford is not a suicide spot. Beckford is a place to get rid of troublesome women
, Sean's father, borrows his daughter-in-law's (Helen
, Sean's wife) car to go to a cottage near the river where he fishes. When he gets there, he realizes someone has been in there.
The town gathers for Nel's funeral. Lena is still angry, mostly with herself though. The day Nel died they'd gotten in a fight, and in anger she'd blamed Nel for Katie's suicide.
At the funeral, Jules sees Robbie Cannon there watching Lena and her blood runs cold. Jules remembers how after she got drunk for the first time, he raped her. Without explaining why, she suggests to Sean that he should look into Robbie as a suspect.
One of Nickie's ancestors was a witch who was drowned. She feels a little responsible for Nel's death because it sparked Nel's interest in the Drowning Pool when she told Nel about it.
Nickie's little sister is Jeannie (Jean)
. A long time ago, Jeannie was a cop and told her an incriminating story about Patrick Townsend (Sean's father, ex-cop). Nickie now avoids Patrick, and its one of the reasons she distrusts police.
After the funeral Nickie accosts Sean, telling him that Nel's death "wasn't like Katie Whittaker. This was like your mother."
killed herself at the Drowning Pool just before her 32nd birthday. She didn't know that Sean, 6 or 7 at the time, had been there. He'd gotten there with his father and was running towards her, though Sean hadn't actually seen her jump.
In Nel's notes, she writes that Lauren had been unhappy and in love with another man.
Louise decides it's finally time to start clearing Katie's room. Louise is wearing the necklace Katie was wearing when she died. It's a little blue bird necklace that Lena had given Katie. She thinks about Nel, who she thinks glamorized the idea of suicide. Nel described the idea of those women choosing a place of death as a thing of beauty and made them seem like romantic heroines.
She finds a bottle of pills in Katie's room and immediately brings it to Sean. The pills are diet pills (Rimato) that were prescribed to Nel. Louise sees it as proof that Nel was supplying Katie with drugs.
Erin looks into the matter. Jules tells her it's strange because the pills were purchased on November 18 which is when Nel was in the hospital for an appendectomy. She remembers because it's the anniversary of their mother's death too. It seems weird that she would've found time to order diet pills.
(Erin also updates Jules on Robbie. He has some domestic violence convictions, but he was out of town that night and hasn't spoken to Nel in years.)
Lena is brought in and admits that she bought them with her mom's credit card because Katie asked her to. She adds the Katie only took a few of them. Erin notes that Lena seems to know something she's not telling them, but Lena leaves.
Meanwhile, the prints that were pulled off of Nel's damaged camera have come back. They're Louise Whittaker's. Erin pays her a visit as well. She also informs Louise that they re-tested it, and Katie definitely had no drugs in her system.
After some prodding, Louise admits that the fingerprints on the camera are hers. After Nel's death, she insisted on seeing the footage in her camera and Nel wouldn't let her. In anger, she later went to the cliff and damaged the camera.
Jules goes through Nel's notes and is amazed to see Nel describe herself as having "saved my sister from drowning." Jules only recalls going swimming and Nel roughly grabbing her and yelling at her. At home afterwards, Nel says she's sorry he hurt her, but that Jules should never tell anyone.
Erin hears about Annie ("Mad Annie") Ward who used to own the cottage the Patrick often uses when he goes fishing. She was one of the women who died in the Drowning Pool in the twenties. According to Nel, Annie was a woman who murdered her husband who was mistreating her.
Nickie decides she needs to talk to Lena, bringing along some pages from the manuscript that she'd been working with Nel on before Nel died.
Helen, Sean, Jeannie and Patrick
Helen is concerned about Patrick, since he seems confused at times. The past year in general has been tough, since she found out about Sean's infidelity. Sean cheated on her. Patrick convinced her to stay. Patrick was the one who initially wanted Sean to marry Helen because he knew Helen would be faithful to Sean (unlike his own wife who cheated on him).
Jeannie knows something about Patrick and left town after Patrick threatened her (basically saying he would find a gang of men to gang rape her). Jeannie was the cop who took care of Sean right after Sean's mother died.
Mark, Katie and Lena
Erin learns that Katie and Lena had a fight a month before Katie died, and their teacher, Mark intervened. Erin pays him a visit. Mark is cagey. He lies to her by saying he has a fiancee even though they broke off their engagement.
Feeling anxious, Mark goes to the school to look for some pictures he knows are in the head office. The filing cabinet is locked though, so he goes to Helen's desk (she's the head teacher) to get the keys. Instead he sees a bracelet with the initials SJA. He takes it.
Lena runs into Josh, and he suggests telling the police about something, but Lena says they promised Katie they wouldn't. They end up at Mark's house instead and Lena throws a rock through his window, giggling.
Lena recalls how she and Katie started flirting with Mark as a joke or a game. But then months later she found out Katie and him were having an affair. Katie was in love with him, and she killed herself to protect him.
Sean, on duty, goes to talk to Josh. A neighbor saw a broken window and a boy riding away. Josh ends up explaining to Sean about Mr. Henderson and Katie sleeping together.
Erin asks Helen about Mark and Katie. She says it's possible Lena is making it up. She notes that Lena used to flirt aggressively with Mark.
After Louise confronts Lena about the news, Lena admits to Jules that the reason Katie felt she needed to protect Mark is because Nel threatened to expose them. Nel thought Katie shouldn't be sleeping with Mark. Lena lies to Louise and tells her she (Lena) was the one who threatened to expose Katie.
After Nel had found out about the affair, Lena and argued bitterly over how to deal with it. Lena had seen Nel confront Matthew. The day Nel had gone to Katie and pushed her to get help from her or her parents was the day Katie jumped. Lena believes Nel may have felt guilty and that's why she killed herself.
That night, Jules realizes Nel has not come home.
Jules comes to realization that Lena is Robbie's daughter. She tracks him down to ask if Lena is with him, but he seems genuinely confused. (They also argue. He says he never raped her and that she wanted it. He also tells her Nel didn't know about it. He told Nel that Jules came onto him but he pushed her to get away.)
Mark and Lena
Mark comes home (he's been out of town) to find the windows of his house broken, and he realizes the cat's out of the bag.
Meanwhile, Lena has broken in and is inside. She sees her mother's SJA bracelet and assumes that Mark killed her mother. As Mark enters the house, Lena attacks him. They fight and he subdues her and puts her in his car and drives off.
Erin and Sean
In the morning, Erin and Sean find Jules in the Drowning Pool (alive; she had melodramatically flung herself in the night before), and gets news that Mark is missing, Lena is gone and there's blood all over his house. They correctly assume that Mark must've taken Lena.
Erin goes to question Louise, and Louise implies that Sean and Nel had some type of relationship.
Sean is at Mark's house. They've also picked up Mark's ex-fiancee, Tracy McBride
, who tells them that the engagement was off and that she hasn't seen him in a long time, contrary to what he's been telling people. Tracy also tells them about a cabin he might be at in Hopwick.
Lauren and Sean
Nickie goes to find Lena, who's not there. Instead she tells Jules about Lauren Townsend (formerly Slater, the "LS" lighter was hers). Nickie says Nel's notes were incorrect since she got the story from Sean.
Instead, Jeannie told Nickie the real story. Lauren was in a loveless marriage and Patrick mistreated her. People thought she was having an affair because she spent time at the Ward cottage (on the cliff), but it's only because she needed to get away sometimes and felt a kinship with Anne.
Nickie thinks Patrick didn't chase her up there to talk her down. He followed her up to the cottage at the cliff and pushed her.
Sean recalls his affair with Nel. She'd started talking to him for information for her book, but it evolved into an affair. When Patrick found out, he beat Sean and told Helen.
Mark, Lena and Sean
Mark takes Lena toward Hopwick, but on the way they fight again. He tells Lena he'll tell her what he knows if she tells everyone that she and Josh lied about all the Katie stuff (otherwise, he'll be considered a sex offender).
Lena agrees. Mark tells her that he didn't kill Nel. He found her bracelet in Helen's desk drawer. Lena then runs away and makes her way to a store where they call Sean. (Mark presumably drives off and disappears, but it doesn't say explicitly.)
Sean brings Lena home where Jules is waiting.
Erin confronts Sean about his affair with Nel, since it's would be inappropriate that he would investigate her death. Sean doesn't answer.
Erin runs into Nickie who cryptically tells her to look into Lauren but she doesn't listen. Jules also calls Erin but she doesn't call her back right then.
Erin finds Helen at Patrick's place. He lives next door to Sean, and Helen takes care of him. Helen accidentally cuts herself with a knife and Erin helps her clean it up. As Erin asks about Sean's affair, Patrick walks in. Patrick accuses Erin of having previously slept with a younger colleague. He threatens Erin and then Jules walks in.
Jules confronts Helen about the bracelet. Helen claims that she found it. Patrick then cuts in and admits that it was him who pushed Nel over and took the bracelet off her before he did. He knew she was asking questions and they met to talk about it at the cliff.
Patrick also ends up admitting to Lauren's murder, since he figures it will come out anyway. He and Lauren fought. He had injured her seriously, so he ended up taking her body and tossing it off the cliff.
His reason for taking Sean along for the ride is that he couldn't leave him alone in the house during a thunderstorm.
After everything is sorted, Lena agrees to go to London to live with Jules. She says goodbye to Josh. Louise tells Lena she forgives her out of kindness, even though deep down she doesn't. She is trying to.
Erin notes that Patrick claims he tore the bracelet off Nel's wrist but there was evidence of that. Sean resigns and moves away. He leaves Helen.
In the final chapter, Sean admits that he had started remembering pieces of that night that his dad killed his mom. After Katie died, Nel started talking to Nickie a lot (who presumably told her about Lauren's death, which she knew about thanks to Jeannie who had been the one taking care of Sean right after it happened).
Nel had been pushing him to remember all of it and brought him to the cliff. He couldn't deal with the memories so he pushed her off the cliff.
(This doesn't really explain what happened re: the bracelet which I thought was supposed to be smoking gun in this book. Where the bracelet was found and who took it off Nel and why there's no evidence of it being torn off her wrist -- none if it gets answered, but whatever.)
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See Into The Water
I have lots of thoughts regarding this book. I expect a lot since I love The Girl On The Train and directly pick up this book thinking it would be the same. Turns out, The Girl On The Train is waaayy better than this.
yeah, I really liked the Girl on the Train too so I was surprised by this book! I just felt like the two of them were so different.
I thought this book was so bad that I gave up after a third. So I didn’t get to the spoiler part, but I’m even more glad I didn’t read on!
haha totally understandable :)
Yea my mom couldn’t even finish it
interesting review this is probably a skip for me
thank you! haha yeah I wasn’t a fan :/
Yea I wouldn’t recommend it to be honest! And I loved girl on the train as well
I read this, and I will have to admit, my thoughts were the exact same as yours. I reviewed it on my blog as well.
i’m glad it wasn’t just me — thanks for reading! :)
Wow. That is a very thorough review. Thanks! I will put this one on my list.
thanks rosi! and thanks for reading!
Red herrings and abhorrent behaviour treated as okay? Not okay.
I still haven’t read The Girl On The Train, nor watched the movie.
yeeaaah I didn’t love this book — the girl in the train is better though the movie isn’t great :/
I was wondering if she was writing the part of a 15 yo girl really well, but this is making me rethink and it’s making me feel very uncomfortable. It does make me wonder about Paula Hawkins though if she really truly does believe this? What’s her story? What happened to her for her to be thinking this way? Or is she simply those annoying ‘forgive and love them all, even the paedophiles’ people? So many questions. Sometimes I wonder if art can cause problems sometimes, especially given how popular Lolita is.
Regarding the Mark/Katie affair:
It’s completely realistic for both Katie and Mark to think they are “really in love”. It’s arguably less realistic for Lena to share the same sentiment, but don’t forget that Lena is herself a teenager. Other characters (Jules, Louise, Erin) present far different perspectives on the affair.
Given the general contempt Paula Hawkins has for the Mark Henderson character, I don’t think it’s fair to say that she approves of this relationship. Even Lena, who arguably thinks the love is real, protests that Mark didn’t deserve Katie.
I like this book a bit better than Girl on the Train, but that relates in part to the fact I saw the movie first. Compared to the movie, the book is very hard to follow, and having an alcoholic as a narrator is not all that much fun. This book goes much further in terms of having multiple narrators, and I understand that can be confusing at first. (I experienced this story as an audio book and I have to admit that I had to re-listen to the first CD a couple times before I figured out what was going on. In particular it took a while for me to figure out that Louise and Jules were separate people.)
I disagree with commenters who think Hawkins is in any way soft on the aspect of pedophilia here. Hawkins makes it perfectly clear that Mark Henderson’s selfishness and irresponsibility did untold damage to a lot of people’s lives, including destroying Katie entirely. He may have “escaped justice” but I don’t see a single character saying his actions were “OK”. To the contrary, Lena in particular was in a murderous rage and may have arranged for a “Hard Candy”-style ending for him.
(Hard Candy is an early movie by Ellen Page and I strongly recommend it for a completely different take on this kind of issue. Having said that, it’s far less realistic than this story.)
Rick, thank you for your interesting and thoughtful comments! It’s funny, I started it out as an audiobook too which is why I think it was confusing at first. I ended up switching over to book form which was easier to follow.
I have to disagree though, particularly with Lena’s take on Mark. I didn’t see much of a rage from her — she initially attacks him because she thought he killed her mother. After she finds out that’s not true, then she just runs away. After the dust settles, she even hopes that they (Mark and Katie) can be together in the afterlife. To me, that seems incredibly soft on his behavior.
I’m not sure I agree with this blog – all respect intended though!!! It is refreshing to see a different opinion from mine! I can agree with some points in this but others I have to disagree. It all comes down to personal interests, taste, and what the individual would find to be fulfilling. For me, I loved this book! I loved the twists and turns and the “hard to keep up” parts. I loved this because it was even more engaging, it was a book that made you keep up and read between the lines and connect the dots for yourself. I loved the pain and the heart retching bits about mistakes and past events that we cannot do anything about anymore. I love to read my books slowly so I can feel the true emotion of each character. Again, this is all just pure personal preferences.
On the pedophilia content: I have to agree with Rick – another commenter – and say that Hawkins did not condone this kind of behavior between the two. I feel that Lena did not believe it was true love. I believe she saw it – as I do – an “in the moment lust affair” between two people. Those two people being a minor and adult. I do not condone this either. I do not believe it is the right, nor natural. I believe that Katie was caught up in her teenage angst and mistook it for love while Mark was getting his rocks off. I do not think Lena saw it as okay and she was clear that she cared about Katie so much and said over and over again about how she cared about her feelings – even in death. The bit about how if there was an afterlife, she hoped Mark and Katie could be together, I take that as purely thinking about Katie and how she just wants her to be happy – whether it be right or wrong. I mean, Lena is no saint herself trying to seduce her teachers and taking Josh (twelve years old) to break windows of Marks house and what not.
One other thing: I think Lena was enraged with Mark as she went to his house and attacked him for how he tore their lives apart. Only after the bracelet fell did Lena become overtaken with sadness, anger, misunderstanding, that she was brought to kill this man. I saw it as the last straw. I think she thought “He took my best friend and now my mother…I’m gonna kill this guy.”
I also know that the writer behind is all is to be accounted for as she is the one that came up with everything. So, I do not believe she was saying what Katie and Mark were doing was okay.
Thank you again for sharing your opinions! I can appreciate it!! <3