The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn (first published in 2018 by HarperCollins)
The Woman in the Window is a hard read. It’s brilliant and the short chapters ensure for a fast-paced reading experience, but it’s by no means the kind of read that will leave you feeling calm or complacent.
Dr Anna Fox spends every day of her life trapped inside the house, haunted by memories of times in her life that she still struggles to confront and process.
All she has is her daily routine and the use of her camera to look in on what all the neighbours and everyone else around her gets up to.
The debilitating agoraphobia she deals with forms a huge part of the novel and is a good reason that anyone who suffers any form of anxiety should probably pace themselves while reading this – A.J. Finn is just that good at capturing the emotional and physical intensity of Anna’s illness.
Finn, who himself has battled with depression – writes Anna’s character with a starkness that’s at once disconcerting and empathetic.
Added to this layer is the fact that she’s haunted by a traumatic event in her past, and as a result, she drinks and medicates heavily - showcasing behaviour that is unhealthy and borders on being self-destructive.
Because of her condition, she spends most of her days “spying” on her neighbours through her camera, watching the world go by as she struggles getting through each day – the only people seeing her being her psychiatrist and physiotherapist.
When the Russells family move in nearby, Anna is immediately drawn to them.
But, she’ll come to realise that life isn’t all that it seems and when she witnesses what looks like a murder, what will follow is a journey is to uncover the truth at all costs.
But what happens when the people who should believe you don’t trust your version of events? And what do you do if even you start doubting what you saw?
What I loved most about The Woman in the Window is that this is the kind of book that scatters so many clues throughout the book, but manages to sidetrack you so effectively, that it feels as if it was designed to make the reader ignore every possible warning to focus on the red herrings that were thrown in our path instead.
I mean when that twist revealed itself at the end, a good part of me realised that something at the back of my mind must have been signalling warning flags, as I wasn’t as much surprised by the person involved than I was by the fact that I was so cleverly misled.
The book explores themes of gaslighting, exploitativeness and dealing with chronic grief.
You’ll at once be sympathetic towards Anna (because you know there’s more to her story than her simply drinking and medicating her sorrows away), but you’ll also find yourself frustrated with her lack of self-preservation and thought for self-care.
This is exactly what also makes it hard to read how the events eventually unravel because there’s a clear element that showcases just how diabolically her vulnerability is being used against her.
At the same time, there’s a huge amount of satisfaction in watching Anna come to terms with everything she’s been through (and whew, her journey’s been tough) and discovering that she does, after all, want to live and not simply exist.
A brilliant read that will keep you on the edge of your seat right up until the end. Bonus points for the author who created a protagonist whose love of noir films added an extra clever dimension to an already engaging novel.
Purchase a copy of the book from Raru.co.za.
Read more of Tammy’s reviews on her book blog.
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