The Woman in the Window (Finn)

The Woman in the Window: A Novel - A. J. Finn

I thought this was really well-done. Even though I accidentally managed to spoil myself for the final twist (and what a twist), I was completely drawn in until the very last page, largely because of the writing. The first revelation (the one about protagonist Dr. Anna Fox's family) was, I'm pretty sure, one of those that are there in order to make the reader feel good about their own instincts. There were plenty of hints dropped even within the first few pages, drawing us into a self-satisfied feeling that, ah yes, we do indeed know what is going on with this slightly addled, unreliable first-person narrator. In contrast, we are at that same narrator's mercy when it comes to impressions of all the other characters, including the one ultimately revealed as the psychotic villain, which is genuinely surprising and shocking to Anna, and therefore to any unspoiled reader.

 

Our narrator is fond of old thriller movies, and frequently has them playing, thus allowing that evocative quoted dialogue to seep into whatever alarming or puzzling thing is happening in her own life. And, too, this novel is very clearly written with movie adaptation in mind; from the pathetic-fallacy major rainstorm during the climactic events, to the devastating and echoing effects of sudden falls in scary places, to characters suddenly appearing in dramatically described light - it's as if the promised movie is already unspooling in one's head. No surprise, then, that the film rights were already sold before publication.

 

I became more emotionally involved than I expected I would in Anna's haze, her agoraphobia, her depression, and her absolutely heart-rending self-doubt when she allows herself to be pushed at one point into believing that she really did delude herself, seeing things she did not see, making up stories, sending an e-mail and photo she did not send... Gaslighted, in fact.

 

I was only vaguely aware that the gender-neutral A.J. Finn pseudonym belonged to a male author, and I thought he did a really decent job of inhabiting a female voice. In fact, the only moment when I specifically spat, "pah! male author!" was when he failed to update us on the condition of the cat in the sunny denouement. (I am like many mystery/thriller readers in that I can contemplate human murders without pain - presumably because it's part of the implicit contract - but any description of cruelty to animals puts me on edge and makes me worry inordinately. Anyway, potential readers of this novel needn't be put off my mentioning the subject; it's minor.)

 

It's always a question with a first novel from an author with another established career: is this the beginning of a long relationship, or has "A.J. Finn" written the one novel he had within him? Either way, I'm glad he got it published, and if his real-life position at the publishing house did have something to do with that, in this case the publishers got it right.

 

A very trendy title, but nonetheless heartily recommended.