The Woman in the Window – A.J. Finn

By now you will no doubt have either read The Woman in the Window or have heard so much about it that a replay of the blurb will be redundant and highly irritating. For the minority who have been happily living in a bubble, the basics of this book are:

🤷🏻‍♀️ Unreliable main character
🍷 Alcoholism of the ‘why haven’t you died from alcohol poisoning yet?’ variety
💊 Pills, so many different types
💤 Alcohol and drug fuelled sleep
🔪 Murder mystery, AKA, the mystery of whether there was a murder
🚶🏽‍♀️ So 🚶🏻‍♂️ much 🏃🏿‍♀️ people 🕺🏽 watching 📷
📺 Oodles of black and white movie references.

I’m really conflicted about what to put in this review as I don’t want to wander too deep into spoiler territory. I’m also really confused about how I feel about this book, probably because there were so many elements that I simultaneously loved and hated. So, I think the way this is going to work is to outline my loves, my frustrations and then sum up with some random thoughts.

The Woohoo Bits

The Writing
With such beautiful sentences that I had to read to someone, I enjoyed the writing style and am keen to read the author’s next novel. Here are just some of my favourite visuals and lovely sentences as examples:

“now shame live-wires through my body.”

“It takes an ice age, the words thawing in my mouth before I can spit them out.”

“I feel as though I’m falling through my own mind.”

“My shadow stretches along the carpet, as though trying to detach itself from me.”

“My head was once a filing cabinet. Now it’s a flurry of papers, floating on a draft.”

In keeping with the bazillion movie references there is a cinematic quality about this book and I feel like it was written with a movie deal in mind. I am interested in seeing how the introspective nature of the main character translates to film. I’m sure I’ll watch the movie, if only to compare it to the book. I hope the movie Anna isn’t a stick figure as the book one is overweight.

The Exploration of Mental Health
I loved that there were multiple mental health conditions portrayed in this book and that they weren’t glossed over. It wasn’t implied that you can flick a magical switch and all of a sudden become the poster child for mental health overnight. The struggles were gritty and the judgemental attitudes towards those with mental health conditions were unfortunately realistic.

The Meh Moments

The Red Herrings
Are they truly red herrings if the reader can tell that’s what they are, or are they merely sunburnt?

The Predictability
It does take some of the thrill out of a thriller if you expect what happens in the thrill parts to happen before they happen. I’m one of those people that can’t even predict what they’re having for dinner that night yet I nailed most of the ‘surprises’ well before they happened, and that’s really kinda sad.

The Obvious [insert dramatic scene here] Moments
The internet just so happens to load slowly one time in the book [insert dramatic scene here]. It was a dark and stormy night [insert dramatic scene here as well].

All of the Black and White Movie References
… which just so happened to coincide with what’s happening in the story at the time. If you’re a black and white movie buff the multitude of references will have you reliving the described scenes in your mind as you read and you’ll most likely want to revisit some of your favourites after you finish reading.

If you’re like me you’re only vaguely familiar with a few of the titles in the main character’s personal movie library. Therefore you’re likely to have meaningful moments and possibly (I don’t know because I haven’t seen most of the movies) foreshadowing of things to come fly right over your head and you won’t even look up at the buzzing sound so you’ll miss them entirely.

The Many Moments Where the Characters are Just Clueless
Sorry, Anna, but there were so many times the answer was right in front of your face but you couldn’t see it for looking. I know you’ve killed a gazillion brain cells since you’ve been home bound but surely you can’t miss all of the clues.

Also, Dr Fielding, I’m assuming you’re the one writing the prescriptions here. Aren’t you just the teensiest bit suspicious about how many medications you’re prescribing and the quantity of each? These medications are scrutinised by physicians, now more than ever.

Where Unhelpful Stereotypes are Reinforced
There is so much media hype these days surrounding prescription medication addiction and the portrayal of the main character buys into all of the negative stereotypes. I’m not denying that there are people who abuse prescription medication and become addicted. There’s no doubt that this can and does happen.

What really angers me as someone with chronic pain is that the stereotypes and the media hype, while making it more difficult for people to abuse medications also makes it that much harder for someone who legitimately needs these to function to get them. I know a lot of legitimate pain patients and we’re not taking medication to get high. It helps us do things that most people take for granted, like not having to choose whether you’ll eat that day or have a shower.

Is Anyone Going to Pay Attention to the Needs of the Cat?
This made my blood boil! 🤬

The Random

I Expect This Book to be a Popular Book Club Selection
I’d say that you should play a drinking game with your book club buddies and take a drink each time the main character does, but I’m afraid you wouldn’t survive do let’s scrap that idea. Perhaps you could have a raffle where you guess how many times she has a drink and the person whose guess is closest to the real number wins a book store gift voucher or something else appropriately bookish.

The Unfulfilled Easter Egg Potential
There’s an email address listed in the book and I had hoped for a sneaky marketing Easter egg in the form of an automated reply relevant to what’s happening during that part of the book. Sadly my cool marketing idea has not been implemented. 😢 Just know that if I ever write a book, there will be Easter eggs.

In Summary

It confuses me no end how I can love the writing style, find sentences so beautiful I have to read them to someone, yet be bored at the same time. Because I accidentally figured out most of the ‘aha!’ moments they turned into ‘uh huh’ ones. To quote Anna:

“I feel as though I’m at a movie and the film is over and the lights are up and everyone’s filed out of the theater and I’m still sitting there, trying to work out what happened.”

Content warnings include mental health and addiction.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and HarperCollins Publishers Australia for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

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 neighbours.

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.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one – and nothing – is what it seems.

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