Title: The Woman in the Window
Author: A.J. Finn
Published in January 2018 by William Morrow
Genre: mystery, thriller (adult)
Rating: ★★★ – it was okay
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, 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? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.
I read The Woman in the Window because it was one of the most talked about thrillers of 2018. Before all the weird stuff about the author surfaced, or anyone talked about its similarities to thrillers published in recent years. Everyone seemed to absolutely rave about this book, so I figured I’d give it a try. I’m happy I got a copy from the library because this ended up being just okay for me.
I’ve wanted to expand my reading to the mystery and thriller genre for a while, so I hop on every recommendation possible. Since this was a Goodreads Choice Award nominee and predicted to be a winner, I had quite high expectations.
The book follows Anna, who has agoraphobia and thus spends every day inside her big house in New York. Did anyone else wonder how she afforded to live there? Because I certainly did! Anyways, that’s beside the point. One of the things she does to pass the time is observe her neighbors through the windows of her house. One day, she witnesses a horrific act in her new neighbor’s living room. She calls the police, who turn up and find absolutely nothing. But Anna is sure she saw something happen.
This is not the first time I’ve read a ‘thriller’ with an unreliable main character. In fact, the main character of this book seriously reminds me of the one in The Girl on the Train. There, I said it. Is there no other way to make our main character seem untrustworthy than by making her an alcoholic? I don’t struggle with addiction, and luckily never have. However, that makes it a very frustrating reading experience for me. The entire time, Anna is saying that no one believes her, and that she doesn’t feel all that well but she wants to be someone everyone can trust. She ‘solves’ her dizzy spells and amnesia by downing three times the recommended amount of medicine and 3 bottles of wine a day. She clearly says that she needs her mind to be clear for the next hour, and decides the perfect way to achieve that is by gulping down a bottle of pinot noir. Sigh. I can’t count the amount of times I had to read the words pinot noir or wine in this book. She must have drank an entire wine cellar by the end of it.
Anna being an alcoholic is pretty much the only reason no one believes her. That, and the fact they didn’t find any evidence of a crime, of course. Her agoraphobia seems to only be used as a tool to further the plot: since she can’t go outside, she can’t really investigate either. I do like that this book talks about support groups, therapy and medication for mental illnesses, but hate the fact that all three are used to further the mystery and crime in this novel.
I could see 70% of the twists and reveals coming from kilometers away. And I don’t read thrillers often. I have watched a lot of shows like Criminal Minds, so maybe that helped. While I was surprised by the big reveal at the end of the book, I simply couldn’t care enough about the characters to actually be invested in the way it turned out.
There were also some parts of the story I found simply implausible. You’re really telling me that this woman lives alone in a big house in New York City, downs bottles of expensive wine a day, and doesn’t have to worry about money? Okay. Even if she got a large sum of money from the thing that happened in her past, a lifestyle like that will make a serious dent in your bank account after years. She can really see what’s on someone’s laptop screen through her windows, from the opposite side of the street? Wow, 20-20 vision for sure. Why does no one have curtains, for fuck’s sake? Once you start noticing these little unlikely things, the story starts to become more and more frustrating.
All in all, I was left disappointed by The Woman in the Window. While I don’t think it was a bad book by any means, I fail to see why everyone loves it so much. The main character is incredibly frustrating and not very interesting, so I quickly lost interest in what happened to her. The little implausibilities made me question the story more than I should have, and took away from my reading experience. I wouldn’t call this book awful or bad, but I wouldn’t recommend it to others either.
Have you read The Woman in the Window? What did you think of it? Can you recommend me some thrillers who don’t depend on the main character being an alcoholic to make them untrustworthy?