Saturday, 17 February 2018

THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW - by A. J. Finn

THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW - A. J. Finn
Published: January 2018 - by HarperCollins Publishers  
Pages: 436.
Genres: Adult / contemporary fiction / thriller / mystery
Triggers/Content Advisory: Mature themes / infrequent bad language
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Jonathan Ball SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
Anna Fox lives alone, a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times--and spying on her neighbors. Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, and their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare. What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? 


This is an extremely hard review to write. The book left me with a load of mixed feelings, and I'm still not sure if I've condensed and communicated them properly. While I like this story for the most part, I'm also left with the feeling that it's missing something. A something that stops me from saying "I love this book!" or "Wow that was amazing". It's something I can't put my finger on. Perhaps it's the language that is a tiny bit too flowery? Or that the ending climax is slightly too melodramatic? Or that the twists - excellent as they are - never quite manage to come across genuinely?
Ugh I just don't know.


But one of the things I do love about this book is its atmosphere. It is so atmospheric, breathtakingly film noir, and with details ranging from Anna's obsession with black and white films to the way the author describes and chooses props for Anna's house, I felt like I was watching an old Hitchcock thriller in my mind's eye.
But the writing is a win-lose for me. I like it, and I generally love the vividness. However it feels a bit too purple-prosey at times, and some descriptions are overdone: page 200: "the car, glossy as a shark"... page 107: " Black as a spent match inside. I yank the string beside the bare bulb. It's a deep, narrow atttic of a room, folded beach chairs slumped at the far end, tons of paint like flowerpots on the floor......Ed's toolbox sits on a shelf, pristine". I don't know if those lines give you enough of an idea, but overall I just think the language is too flowery.

Until page 116 and Anna hears The Scream, I was kinda bored. The book takes that long to get going. Perhaps it was also that the writing and characters weren't enough to grip me until the twists and action came. Although admittedly, the twists do make up for that intial slowness...
Gosh the twists are good. Finn takes the word "twist" to a whole other level with this book. When there isn't a twist, the story's not gripping, but as soon as something huge is dropped, you can't look away. The shocks are so clever and so razor-sharp. The story goes from creepy to deathly creepy in the blink of an eye. It's excellent.


“If there's one thing I've learned in all my time working with children, if I could whittle those years down to a single revelation, it's this: They are extraordinarily resilient. They can withstand neglect; they can survive abuse; they can endure, even thrive, where adults would collapse like umbrellas.”


Anna is a compelling heroine and I love how unreliable she is. Her story and past are heartbreaking, and I almost cried reading about it. It's so painful.
But the secondary characters could be stronger. They never give the impression of being fully three-dimensional human beings, and I really wish they had more personally and vividness. The whole cast just needs a bit more...punch.

The book is similar to The Girl on the Train. I thought it'd be useful to mention that. Anna is an alcoholic, an unreliable narrator, and the whole premise of her not being believed rings very close to TGOTT idea. This story does take its own path, though - thankfully - but the similarities are hard to miss.




The Woman in the Window is an atmospheric thriller jabbed with terrifying twists and lots of heart. I recommend it for all thriller fans, despite feeling like it's missing something that could've made it magnificent. 


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