I have read many, many thrillers. I love a good thriller but I have stumbled across a frustrating problem: I’ve now read so many that I can usually predict the twist and the ending. I now pick up thrillers with a certain sense of trepidation, I worry that I am going to be left feeling disappointed. However, when I saw The Woman In The Window by A.J. Finn, I knew that I was going to have to read it. For starters, the front of the novel declares that it has sold over 2 million copies. Plus, Gillian Flynn has given this novel high praise – “Astounding, thrilling, amazing”. I had to put my thriller fears aside and dive into this novel.
The Woman In The Window
The Woman In The Window is A.J Finn’s debut novel, and what an accomplished novel it is. It’s in a similar vein to the Girl on the Train, in that the protagonist – Anna Fox – is female and potentially untrustworthy. As the reader, we spend the novel going backwards and forwards in regards to whether we trust Anna. She is an alcoholic and abuses her medication and, therefore, when she says she has witnessed a crime at her neighbours we are unsure whether to believe her? Did she imagine it? Or did she actually witness a murder?
Anna Fox is severely agoraphobic and terrified of leaving the house. Her only connections with the outside world are her phone calls with her husband (who she is separated from) and her young daughter, Livvy. Plus, she has weekly visits from Bina, her physical therapist, Dr Fielding, who she has sessions with on the phone, and David, her lodger, who lives in the basement.
Booze and pills
We learn that Anna Fox is a child psychologist who likes to use her knowledge and experience to help others online in chat forums. Much of her life is spent online, spying on her neighbours (and taking photos) or watching her favourite black and white movies. This is all with a hefty dose of booze and pills so that she can keep her feelings suffocated, and keep everything muffled and at a distance. She wants to be numb, she doesn’t want to feel or remember. Then one night she is brought bang into the living.
Across the street she hears a blood-curdling scream and Anna sees what she believes is a murder taking place. But did Anna really see it or has the deluge of wine and mixing of pills caused her to hallucinate? Anna calls the police but they don’t believe her and for the rest of the novel Anna veers from wondering if she hallucinated to believing that she definitely saw a crime taking place.
The majority of the novel is set between the four walls of Anna’s house, which does a curious thing to us as the reader. We find ourselves feeling trapped and claustrophobic. I raced ahead when reading the novel, I was desperate for answers and frantic to escape Anna and those four walls. However, when Anna does find herself outside you can almost physically feel her panic and you are anxious for her to return inside where it is safe. Where no one is out to get her.
Even if we don’t believe Anna, we can’t be sure that someone isn’t after her. Like Anna, we become increasingly paranoid. At times I found myself tentatively turning the pages, afraid of what twist would happen next. Afraid of further confusion, confused about who and what to believe.
A master of control
This book masterly controls our emotions: dangling supposed information in front of us, only to whip it away as we turn the page. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t perfect. There was a twist that I saw coming a mile off. However, there were further unexpected twists which I was not prepared for. Perhaps that original twist was a red herring from the author. A clever way of throwing us off track.
Like the movies Anna Fox watches, this is a superb thriller that reaches Hitchcock heights. As you read this novel you become Anna. Her four walls become your four walls. Her concerns become your concerns. You become totally immersed in her world. Anna is flawed but she is warm, caring and deeply intelligent. As a reader we want, no need, Anna to be okay.
This is a compelling read that will completely entrap you. You won’t be able to put it down until you have the answers, just be prepared as they might not be the answers you were expecting.