When I first started hearing about this book a few months ago, I was immediately intrigued. A book about a woman who watches her neighbors through her window and sees something horrible, but no one believes her? Rear Window, the Alfred Hitchcock film starring Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly, is one of my favorite movies of all time, and with a plot that seemed to mirror that of the film, The Woman in the Window seemed like it was written just for me.
Once I started reading The Woman in the Window, I realized quickly that it is definitely not a carbon copy of Rear Window. The influence of classic Hitchcock films is undeniable, but The Woman in the Window is definitely a powerful force of its own. The book is told from the perspective of Dr. Anna Fox, a child psychologist whose agoraphobia has confined her to her own home for ten months. She spends her days playing online chess, counseling others with agoraphobia in an online community, drinking much more wine than she should, and watching her neighbors through the window with the zoom lens on her camera. When a new family moves in to a neighboring house, she witnesses something horrible that leaves her determined to convince everyone else that what she saw was real, in spite of her heavy dosages of medication and the several bottles of wine she drank that day that lead them to believe she imagined the entire thing.
The Woman in the Window is unlike most other thrillers I have read. In fact, classifying this book as simply a thriller does a serious injustice to A.J. Finn’s writing. Finn has crafted a magnificent novel with a literary fiction feel that also leaves readers anxious from start to finish. By telling the story from Anna’s perspective, Finn has allowed readers to dive deeply into the complicated tangle of her mind and thoughts, and as she begins to question her own sanity, so does the reader. Her own story and the source of her agoraphobia unfold slowly through her conversations with her husband, from whom she is separated and has not seen during her period of confinement, and the details she reveals to a woman she meets in her agoraphobia community online.
In the beginning, Anna was a difficult character for me to form an attachment with. Her reliance on multiple bottles of wine each day, her irresponsible methods for taking her medication, and her disregard for personal hygiene made her difficult for me to reach. As her depression became more clearly defined, my irritation turned to empathy, and I became deeply invested in her. I found myself desperately wanting to believe her and desperate for her to prove herself to those around her. The more invested I became, the more blindsided and shocked I felt by each twist in the story…and there were several.
The Woman in the Window is a perfect read for those who enjoy slow burning thrillers that focus on deep character development through compelling writing. As someone who enjoys classic films, I especially appreciated the suspense of the book that left me feeling terrified without the gore and sensational violence typical of modern works. Instead, The Woman in the Window got inside my head, made me question everything I thought I knew about what Anna saw, and held on so tightly that I couldn’t put the book down until I finished.