Author: A.J. Finn
Publisher: Harper Collins
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher
The Woman In The Window is taut and twisted with interesting premises and a huge nod to the gritty black and white suspense films of a bygone era.
I read an uncorrected proof of The Woman In The Window so I didn’t have the back of the book blurb and I’m so far behind that I didn’t read the media release that came with it. I know there’s a lot of hype around this release but it’s not something I heard much about because I’ve been a little sheltered trying to get other stuff sorted. All things considered I went in pretty much blind, which I often do and I think can be a good thing. I have heard it likened to Girl on a Train and Gone Girl, neither of which I have read – or watched for that matter.
There’s been a lot going on around me so I haven’t had a great deal of time to focus on reading, I also found it took me quite a while to really get invested here and I’m not sure if the two are related. When I did get invested though, I didn’t want to put the book down. There was a lot I had on my list for tonight but I kept finding myself pulled back to the book.
Dr Anna Fox is an unreliable narrator whose agoraphobia has her trapped inside her house, she hasn’t been outside in ten months and things aren’t looking like changing any time soon. We don’t know why she’s agoraphobic, just that it’s PTSD related and started almost a year ago. She is a child psychologist, separated from her family and heavily (self)medicated.
Unreliable witnesses seem to be a popular tool in suspense story-telling at the moment because the reader is left wondering what to believe.
Dr Fox likes to watch the outside world through her windows, and the lens of her camera. She knows all about her neighbours as she watches them from afar though many of them wouldn’t know who she was. She is in a great period of time to be agoraphobic really because technology means that you don’t have to be out of touch and you can do pretty much everything you need to from home. Online shopping, online pharmacists, online gaming and then the internet brings people as close as you want them. Dr Fox spends a lot of time in an online chat forum for sufferers of agoraphobia and she relies on her formal training to help where she can.
This is a suspense story with Dr Fox painted as an unreliable witness from early on so it will be tricky to work out what to say without saying too much. She is a complex character with a lot going on, much of which we slowly get a handle on as the story unfolds. The love she has of old black and white movies is something we learn early on and it’s something that reflects on the story unfolding in her life. Is that part of the argument painting her as an unreliable witness or is it coincidental? There is quite a lot of reference to the classics she is watching and also some direct quotes.
I really don’t know what to say about the story without risking the suspense so I will just stick to my thoughts and reactions to the book.
It’s been a couple of days since I finished the book and that is never a good thing, trying to picture it now and I get a visual in my head which is very much the gritty film noir atmosphere of the movies Dr Fox loves. Looking at the story as a whole there aren’t very many characters because how many people does an agoraphobe actually come in contact with.
Dr Fox is well drawn but she’s not clearly drawn because otherwise it would be difficult to find her questionable later. We get to know her well; no it’s more that we get to study her movements closely but a lot is left hazy so that her unreliability remains intact. We see all of her neighbours though we only meet a few of them, and her tenant comes into focus slowly.
I was drawn into the drama, the tension and the suspense. There were a lot of twists, and of course some dead ends, and usually I am pretty good at predicting what’s to come but I couldn’t get a handle on this one, I found it difficult to predict and I like that.
The Woman in the Window is the debut novel of A.J. Finn and it has been widely acquired for release, and film rights. I would be interested to see how it translates to the screen because it is such an atmospheric piece.
I gave it 4 stars because I really enjoyed the read, it was suspenseful and the heroine was intriguing. Dr Fox seems to be at her weakest, she’s shut in and self medicated so her limitations are many but she’s still intelligent and when it come right down to it she is still very determined and resourceful. This is very much a story that calls on the convenience provided by the internet age and it was well utilised. I didn’t have the hype to build it up for me before I started so I went in with no expectations and I think that can be a good thing.