Back in the fall, I received a nice fat envelope, and inside of it was this book. I really don’t remember requesting it or entering a giveaway, so I’m not sure how I got it (probably I did enter a giveaway and just don’t remember!), but I am grateful to the publisher nonetheless. I held off reading this book because I wanted to read/review it close to the publication date, which is next week.
It took me a bit to really get into this book, although the very short chapters always help to draw me in. The narrator, Anna*, gives us bits and pieces about her life, and part of the key to the story is receiving that information at that pace, but we find out within the first few pages that she is agoraphobic – afraid of open spaces – and doesn’t leave her house. Her husband (Ed) and daughter (Olivia) aren’t living with her, although she still talks with them every day. Anna’s main occupations seem to be drinking wine, spying on her neighbors, and watching old movies.
Everything comes to us quite slowly, as we carefully pick up the threads of Anna’s life and try to understand why she is the way she is. Things start to pick up a bit when Anna witnesses one of her neighbors being murdered across the park. Frantic, she calls the police – but by the time everything starts to get sorted out, there is no sign of a murder, and everyone is convinced that Anna imagined the whole thing, aided by medication and alcohol.
I really liked how even I wasn’t sure if Anna really saw what she thought she saw. And even though I didn’t always agree with her decisions – and frequently wanted to snatch her glass of wine right out of her self-destructive hand – I still liked Anna throughout the story, even when I learned about some of her more unsavory decisions in the past. And throughout the book I kept recalling one of my dad’s favorite quotes – When the whole world’s out to get you, being paranoid is just smart thinking!
Parts of this story felt really similar to The Girl on the Train, which I just got around to reading this fall: short, snappy chapters with an unreliable female narrator who is convinced she saw a crime but no one believes her because she has a lot of personal issues and is usually drunk. But once I pushed past that initial sense of same-y-ness, I found that The Woman in the Window was its own story, with a lot of different twists and turns than I anticipated. While I was able to guess some things (and cleverer readers than myself may be able to guess more), overall I was surprised by a couple of twists and the ending itself.
This was the type of book that, when I got to the ending and had all the answers, I wanted to read again – I did just read the first few chapters again when I was writing this review, just to see if I could spot the clues I completely missed the first time around.
All in all, a 4/5 for The Woman in the Window. While it does have bits that feel like familiar thriller material, and while it is definitely an homage to Hitchcock’s classic Rear Window, it still stands as its own story with a lot to offer.
*I was reading this at the same time as A Drop in the Ocean, which is ALSO narrated by a woman named Anna. Both women were also doctors. Despite the fact that they were very different stories, and the first-person narration meant I didn’t hear their names all that often, having two important Annas going at the same time did feel somewhat muddling…