|Title:||The Woman in the Window|
The few reviews of this book that I did read have compared the protagonist to that of the main character in Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train (2015), and honestly the only validation I could give towards that connection is that the narrator is a bit of a drinker, and that she spends quite a bit of time observing strangers. Having read both novels that is where the similarities end. Comparing them to one another is just lazy reading in my opinion. Actually in terms of comparisons this novel has used several narrative elements such as the unreliable narrators and ‘noir’ aspect that have been found in other recent thrillers such as Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl (2012).
A.J. Finn’s debut novel arrived around the time that several so-called ‘domestic thrillers’ were popping up all over. Usually when this sort of publishing trend occurs it can be unfortunate as novels get grouped together and are not given the appropriate and deserved credit.
The Woman in the Window (2018) is about former child psychologist, Dr. Anna Fox who is introduced to the reader as a woman living alone in her massive New York house struggling with a severe case of Agoraphobia. From her windows Anna observes her neighbors through the lens of her Nikon D5500 camera. She watches them and creates scenarios for them based on their movements, but she doesn’t speak to them. Anna hardly speaks to anyone other than her psychiatrist Dr. Fieldng, her physical therapist Bina, her downstairs tenant David, and her estranged husband and daughter Ed and Olivia. That is, until she meets Jane Russell and her son Ethan from across the street…
She spends hours watching black and white films from the 1940’s and 1950’s, especially Alfred Hitchcock thrillers. What I loved best about this novel was Anna’s obsession with film noir, and I am quite proud to say that I have seen almost 99% of the film’s mentioned – some of them several times. Her references to Vertigo (1958), Rear Window (1954) and Shadow of a Doubt (1943) are a fantastic homage to the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock who also just so happens to be my favorite director. I have been OBSESSED with his films since the first time I saw The Birds (1963) when I was around 12 or 13 years old. In a way this entire novel is reminiscent of the shadowy film noir that dominated the film industry between the 1930’S and the early 1960’s.
Other than her film adoration, her penchant for drinking red wine in the middle of the day, and spying on her neighbors, Anna’s only other level of interest lies in the cyber world in the form of an online support group for people suffering from Agoraphobia like herself. It is here that her addiction to escaping reality becomes clearer as she avoids real people by maintaining an online profile. This subtle take on ‘Hitchcockian’ noir is given a modern twist, and the reader becomes more and more confused as to the narrator’s credibility.
When Anna hears a scream one day coming from the apartment across the street, and then claims to have witnessed the murder of a woman called Jane Russell in the same apartment days later, things start to become increasingly frustrating and rather terrifying for the reclusive woman who has a disturbing secret she has yet to share.
The tone of this novel is sombre and dark and slow just like 1940’s film noir. The reader is almost forced to hold his or her breathe as Anna moves around in her apartment observing the world from her very limited point of view. We want her to be believed, but we find trouble in believing her ourselves as her issues become more and more complex, and her credibility becomes more and more unclear.
As thrillers go this one was subtle enough to taste like a nice piece of dark chocolate – not too sweet, not too bitter, and just tasty enough to keep you deliciously satisfied. (As a rule I try not to compare books to chocolate as both are equally wonderful and important in my life, but this particular story really conjured up this comparison and I’m afraid that is just how I will end this review – take from it what you will). A thoroughly enjoyable thriller for lovers of mysteries and old movies and a good old fashioned plot that keeps you guessing and second guessing, and then starting all over again.