The story follows Anna Fox, an agoraphobic child psychologist who is holed up in her home, unable to leave the house for the past ten months. Separated from her husband and daughter, she passes the days drinking too much wine, taking too many pills, chatting online with other people living with Agoraphobia and watching old black & white movies. She also has developed the bad habit of spying on her neighbors, using her Nikon camera’s zoom lens.
She becomes especially intrigued by the Russell family — Jane, Alister and their teenage son Ethan — who recently moved in across the street. Much like the characters in a Hitchcock film, Anna becomes obsessed with her new neighbors until one night while spying at the Russell’s window, Anna sees something she shouldn’t have. Or did she?
From this point forward, Anna’s world quickly crumbles around her as we learn that nothing is as it seems. Now she has to convince everyone around her that though she was heavily medicated and drunk, what she saw was real and not a hallucination.
WHAT I LIKED
I listened to this on audiobook, and as the story unfolded, I felt as though I were listening to a Hitchcockian thriller with a modern twist. There seems to be a strong Hitchcock film influence here, and the entire story felt quite cinematic to me. In fact, the plot line did make me think of Rear Window. The story unraveled slowly (much like poor Anna’s supposedly safe world) and the numerous twists, turns, and direction changes all added to the story’s element of suspense. I also especially enjoyed the countless old movie references peppered throughout the story.
I found Anna to be a simply enchanting protagonist. The detailed depiction of her struggle with Agoraphobia was compelling and mesmerizing, and because of this, the book was unputdownable for me. The story was told in a diary style from Anna’s first-person point of view, and I found the peek into her mind fascinating, especially once she began to doubt her own sanity.
Because of the drinking and drugs, we come to realize that Anna is an unreliable narrator, making the story even all the more compelling when we’re not entirely sure that what she sees or believes is real. Not only is she an unreliable narrator, but police also consider her an unreliable witness. She is such a complex character, one moment clear and sure of herself, while other moments muddled and dreamlike. Though we’re not sure whether to trust her — especially given that she appears to be a compulsive liar — Anna’s character is likable, sympathetic and for many of us, relatable (I mean who doesn’t drink wine and spy on their neighbors?) So though she’s flawed, she’s also incredibly complex.
I found the intrigue surrounding her family especially fascinating. Though Anna has regular phone conversations with her husband and eight-year-old daughter, the reader doesn’t know why they are separated. We do know that some horrible — possibly tragic — event occurred to cause Anna’s Agoraphobia, causing us to suspect that this same event was responsible for Anna’s estrangement from her family. As Anna’s story unfolds, flashbacks slowly reveal bits and pieces of what brought Anna to the point in her life where she’s a drunken, pill-popping recluse, unable to leave her house.
The secondary character development was phenomenal as well. Though we suspect that Anna is delusional and an unreliable narrator, we’re not quite sure because most of the other characters in the book are kind of creepy or otherwise off-putting. So we definitely have a case of not knowing who we can trust.
What I especially liked is that I did not guess the ending. Just when I thought I had the story all figured out, the author went and changed the entire storyline, and I found myself on an entirely different path. I also could see no plot holes or inconsistencies in this story — everything made perfect sense to me, and I felt it was brilliantly plotted.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
I enjoyed the second part of the book much more than the first, probably because of the pacing. The first part was more on the slower to moderately paced side as it set the scene for the faster-paced more intense second half. Though it didn’t exactly drag — because the characters became more developed and intriguing as the story progressed — it also didn’t move as quickly as the second half. There was also a fair amount of repetition in the first half which became more and more evident as the novel progressed.
We learn as the story unfolds that Anna did something “big” to cause her separation from her family. When we finally learn what that was, it just didn’t feel right to me. It felt out of character for the person we’ve come to know throughout the story. So because of this, I think a little more buildup and backstory would have been helpful, perhaps explaining why Anna did what she did. As it stood, it just didn’t feel like something her character would do.
This is a strong, character-driven suspenseful story that I found engrossing and suspenseful, especially once the pace picked up during the second half of the book. The prose was lush and beautifully written, and because of that, this superb tale was a treat to read — or should I say listen to. I’m so glad that I listened to this in audiobook format as Anne Marie Lee is one hell of a narrator!
The Woman in the Window was a highly emotional and truly captivating tale that I didn’t want to end. It was a rich, riveting and intoxicating novel with gorgeous tension-filled scenes that sucked me right in.
I’d recommend this novel to anyone who loves suspense, psychological thrillers, old movies and tales with a little darker twist to them and I ended up giving it 5 stars.
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