Is this what’s become of me? A woman who gawks like a guppy at an every day lunch hour? A visitor from another world, awed by the miracle of a new grocery store? Deep within my dry-iced brain, something throbs, something angry and vanquished. A flush sunrises in my cheeks. This is what’s become of me. This is who I am.
Sometimes what you need is a purely escapist thriller. A don’t-think-too-hard-about-it, page-turning suspense novel. Something you can finish in 2 or 3 days, even with work and family and hard things going on in your life. I greedily gobbled up A.J. Finn’s best-selling debut, The Woman in the Window, grateful for the respite from reality. (It’s hugely popular in the U.S. right now – my library system has a wait list over 200 people long, usually reserved for the likes of John Grisham and James Patterson. I must have put my name down relatively early I guess!)
Anna Fox is severely agoraphobic, a virtual prisoner in her New York City home. She has a physical therapist and a psychiatrist who come over weekly to tend to her. She orders food (but mostly wine) online. She plays chess and takes French lessons online too. A former psychiatrist herself, she gives mental health advice to her fellow agoraphobics on an online chat room dedicated to the condition. She speaks to and about her family, husband Ed and daughter Olivia, who don’t live with her in the home. We don’t know what’s happened, but hints are dropped bit by bit that something terrible has happened, something for which Anna has blamed herself and that has resulted in the lonely half-life she currently lives.
Oh, and she also obsessively watches her neighbors through her camera lens. When she becomes acquainted with the new family who has moved in across the park, the Russells, crazy things start happening. Anna witnesses a gruesome act of violence through her window, but she can’t get anyone to believe her or corroborate her tale – not the police, not the Russells themselves. A heavy drinker and liberal mixer of medication and alcohol, Anna starts to doubt herself. The reader is taken along with Anna as she tries to prove that what she saw was real and that more people – including Anna herself – are in very real danger.
So we’ve got an addicted, possibly unreliable narrator as we did in Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train, but I have to say that Finn’s writing elevated this novel over that one in my mind. Also, Anna is a much more sympathetic character than Rachel was, and as the novel goes along we get a glimpse into the truly devastating event that changed everything for her. I wanted Anna to quit mixing her wine and her meds already and rejoin the world, but I can’t say that I blamed her when I found out what happened. Still, I rooted for her.
I seem to have a weakness for these big, splashy thrillers that “everyone” is reading. I LOVED Gone Girl, really liked both of Ruth Ware’s novels that I’ve read, and thought that Paula Hawkins’s follow-up, Into the Water, was even better than Girl on the Train. I have to say that I think it’s best to approach these books with the mindset of fun and escapism, and not try to deconstruct or look too closely at the undercarriage. Maybe it was my distracted frame of mind, but there was a twist in this one that I did NOT see coming. There was one red herring that I did guess, or at the least my radar was alarmed by and had confirmed by the end.
I recommend The Woman in the Window if you’re a fan of thrillers, or if you’re just in the mood for a page-turning read. Also, side bonus: Anna is a huge fan of classic movies, especially Hitchcock films. (There’s a Rear Window vibe to this book for sure.) There are a ton of films referenced in the novel, and it reminded me again how many of his films I’ve not yet watched. In fact, I ordered Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934 version) from my library to watch later this week. I don’t know that this book is one that will stay with me for long, but it was just what I needed to sink my teeth into recently. It would be a very good poolside read for the summer. 4 stars.
What’s the last escapist/page-turning book you read? Talk to me!