Book #12

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times... and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

I am someone who obscures their windows as much as possible. I freak out when my partner is sitting with lights on in front of the window, displayed to our street like a domestic picture show. I don’t want our lives on display. This novel tapped into that phobia; neighbours looking in windows, seeing things they shouldn’t, tracking the lives of others - no thank you.

Anna is an enigma from the very first sentence of this novel. Alcoholic, agoraphobic, and agonising - we know something has happened to her; we know her husband and daughter are no longer living with her, but we don’t know why. As Anna lives life vicariously through spying on her neighbours, she sees a number of things she shouldn’t. And one day she sees something which propels her into doing something she hasn’t done in almost a year - leaving her safe home.

Finn has a great, engaging style here, and I found myself shooting through the prose at a speed which shocked me. Clues are peppered everywhere, small twists kept me moving forward, and the sad mystery of Anna’s past slowly unravelling was heartbreakingly perfect.

I loved Anna’s complexity and unreliability. Neither the characters, nor I, trusted her entirely; at times she didn’t even trust herself. The trauma she’s experienced is fatal, and I found it somewhat comforting to be allowed the knowledge of this, and to understand her better.

Having said all that, I did come out of the finale with a bit of a disappointed sigh on my lips. Things became slightly unrealistic, and a bit overly dramatic; my disbelief struggled to suspend. I think in this genre there is always the expectation of a twist - we are all expecting the twist, after all - and it was a bit overdone here.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed this for its quickness, its exploration of a lesser known condition, and its utterly devastating commentary on how you might cope after the worst thing you can imagine happens to you.