Synopsis: 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. (Adapted from Goodreads)
Themes Explored: mystery, thriller, psychotherapy, alcoholism, death, suspense, depression, trust, suspense
Review: The Woman in the Window is quite similar to Rear Window, only a depressed, alcoholic woman with an identity problem replaces Jimmy Stewart. I normally steer away from modern thriller novels, mainly because I have yet to read one that I actually find “suspenseful”. This book’s main problem is that the author clearly wrote the story with the intention of adapting it to the screen. While there is nothing wrong with writing for the screen, the narrative loses some depth due to this approach.
Child psychologist Anna Fox, the main character, lives a closeted and depressing life. A year before the events in the novel, Anna suffered an unthinkable trauma and copes with it by guzzling alcohol and popping pills. She speaks to her husband and daughter on the phone—they have moved out on the recommendation of their doctor. Anna has not left her Manhattan townhouse in over 11 months. Her day involves observing the neighbors and photographing them with a teleporting digital camera, watching old movies, playing chess, and counseling agoraphobics via an online forum. However, given the sheer number of pills and wine bottles she goes through, it’s amazing Anna can even turn on a computer, much less dole out advice. When Anna witnesses a stabbing, no one believes what she saw is real.
Reading this novel will make you depressed. Seriously. Anna’s daily ritual involves drinking an obscene amount of Merlot-she is one bottle away from liver failure-and wallowing in self-pity. The other characters merely exist to showcase how reclusive Anna has become. These characters, all interchangeable and forgettable, exist to be ignored. Until one of them dies, because plot. Honestly, other than the main villain, I cannot name a single other character from this book. It is as if the author went down a list of common character types and tried to cram in as many as possible. A.J. just forgot to give any of his characters a personality. Drinking alcohol and treating high powered anti psychotics like skittles does not adequately replace character development.
Throughout the book it felt like Anna’s addictions were an excuse to not dig deeper into her problems. Nowadays characters cannot be unreliable because they are rotten and have ulterior motives. Now, everyone needs excuse for not being “normal”. So enter severe depression with a side of aggressive alcoholism. In one scene Anna’s psychiatrist visits but makes only a half-hearted effort to curb the drinking. Another winning conclusion from the narrative: being a stalker magically cures depression! Who knew.
Agoraphobia actually exists and derails people’s lives. However, in this novel, Anna suffers agoraphobia merely as an excuse for spying on her neighbors. Her mental illness actually overpowers the narrative. Instead of focusing on fleshing out some of the supporting characters, Finn writes numerous soliloquies to the joys of drinking away your pain. At least in Rear Window Jimmy Stewart spied on his neighbors out of boredom. After all, he just had a broken leg, not a debilitating mental illness. Overall, this was an okay novel. The exposition and self-pity rather annoyed me. I just wanted to shake Anna and tell her stop drinking. Ninety-nine percent of her problems would have disappeared if she stopped mixing Merlot and anti psychotics. The narrative would have been more interesting if Anna was a mentally “normal” psychologists with an odd obsession with her neighbors.
The Woman in the Window, William Morrow, 2018, ISBN: 9780062678416