The opening of The Woman in the Window has a pleasing dissonance. The narrator is watching her neighbours through a camera lens, describing them in a cool ironic voice. The set-up is reminiscent of a classic movie but you gradually realise the references are sharply contemporary.
Anna is an agoraphobic, living alone in her affluent New York home. When she isn’t observing her neighbours or engaging in various online forums she is watching her favourite black-and-white films.
She becomes particularly fixated on the neighbours who move in across the road. On first impression they seem a happy family. Then she believes she witnesses a crime in their home. Her condition, her medication, the alcohol she is not supposed to drink, all mean that no one, including Anna herself, is sure that her account can be believed.
This is very stylish, clever and intriguing book. What I liked about it most was that distinctive narrative voice. There are a number of satisfying twists. Some of them I saw coming (that’s not necessarily a bad thing as it allows me to feel smug) but others were genuinely shocking.
I was fascinated by Anna and by her story and although I’m not a big movie fan I did pick up many of the cinematic references. (Some of them are spelt out in the narration – I think devotees of the genre might feel cheated of their opportunity to feel smug.)
My only reservation is that it is a very long book. Those Hollywood classics are very spare and fast-paced, and I think the book should have mirrored that structure. If it were a hundred pages shorter I would have loved it even more.
One final thought – I don’t understand the UK cover (top) – it doesn’t capture the feel of the book at all. Seeing the title and that image, I thought it was a dark thriller about a woman trapped in a downtown warehouse, maybe a victim of trafficking. The US cover may not win awards (and it is very similar to the cover of Fear) but it does at least suggest a domestic setting and a retro feel.
I received a copy of The Woman in the Window from the publisher via Netgalley.
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