Disturbing, astonishing and beautifully written, The Woman in the Window has been deemed the thriller of 2018. With the recent calamitous fervour surrounding Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, this psychological mystery is next in line.
I did not begin The Woman in the Window with particularly high expectations. After handing in my last essay, with a void of five months suddenly looming back at me, I wanted to read something frightening and exciting. A novel a world away from the literature that had occupied, practically consumed, the past month. Choosing thrillers, I trawled through an endless supply of Kindle samples that promised to be ‘compelling’, ‘gripping’ and ‘emotional’. After a few pages of stiff prose and two-dimensional characters I was not convinced. Where they disappoint, debut author A. J. Finn’s novel succeeds exceptionally.
Initially believing it to be an unadventurous duplicate of the two aforementioned novels, I was startled when I reached the end of the taster chapters so quickly. An apparently good sign. Reluctantly, I bought the novel after seeing it had 113 reservations at my local library. Another good sign. Before long, I could not stop reading.
In a narrative steeped in merlot and littered with pills, readers soon realise it is difficult to trust protagonist Anna Fox’s word. She is confined to her large home in New York after becoming acutely agoraphobic following a disastrous and traumatic event. Once a child psychologist, Anna spends her time spying on her neighbours, playing online chess and talking to her estranged family on the phone.
Not long after a family move in opposite her house, Anna believes she witnesses a horrifying murder in her new neighbours’ living room. Since she was heavily medicated and drunk at the time, no one trusts what she has witnessed. Desperate to convince the police and those around her, Anna is the only one who believes in what she saw.
Alongside the novel’s appealing plot, its haunting prose is strikingly cinematic. A. J. Finn, a pseudonym for Daniel Mallory, writes evocatively to the point that vivid images pour into the reader’s mind with hallucinogenic ease. Whether ‘the sky was a bowl of stars and space’ or ‘her head a halo in the sunset’, you can practically see and sense the scene unfolding around you. It is remarkably easy to slip into Anna’s mind and experience what she does, however warped.
Unsurprisingly, due to its enigmatic premise and vivid writing, The Woman in the Window is already set to become a film directed by Joe Wright and starring Amy Adams in the leading role. After a frantic bidding war for publishing, the deal with Fox 2000 was struck before the novel had even hit the shelves. Regardless, I would have still highly recommended this book even if it wasn’t going to be Hollywood’s next sexy thriller.
While the finale does lose me a little, this comes after hundreds of pages of blood chilling suspense and shocking revelations that I thoroughly enjoyed. Finn’s novel manages to be fearsome and dark and yet emotive and poignant. Mystery and danger do not come at the expense of its intensely believable characters. Believe me when I say this thriller needs to be next on your summer reading list.