The Woman in the Window is 2018’s most talked about psychological thriller. I have mixed feelings about this, but I’m going to stick with four stars. It’s a roller coaster ride and a page-turner, although I have some issues with aspects of the story. It’s possible that I’m just being oversensitive. More on that later.
Dr. Anna Fox is an agoraphobic psychologist who lives alone in a New York City townhouse. Anna spends her time watching old black and white movies and watching her neighbors through a camera lens. She witnesses a crime, but she’s not sure if it was real or imagined.
It’s inspired by Hitchcock’s Rear Window, which I haven’t watched in a long time, and reminiscent of some recent psychological thrillers, The Woman in Cabin 10 and The Girl on the Train. In some ways, it also reminds me of The Lady Vanishes. The all have the same basic elements where you have to guess whether something really happened and if you can trust the narrator’s perception.
The pacing and suspense are impressive to say the least. A. J. Finn has a nice way of turning a phrase and using metaphors. Just about all of the twists are predictable, but it doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of the story. One twist reminds me of Gone Girl, which is annoying as hell. I hate it when an author’s twist is to (view spoiler)[alter a character’s personality (hide spoiler)] without any warning. To me, it makes the twist feel implausible. As a reader, I felt cheated and let down, although most readers don’t seem to mind this type of twist.
There are a lot of great things going on with the writing, storytelling, and character development. I’m not fond of how the author portrays agoraphobia. This is where I hit a snag and why I think I’m being oversensitive about this book. He portrays agoraphobics as irresponsible, alcoholics who lie, overmedicate themselves, and drink like a fish. Anna drinks multiple bottles of wine a day. Her doctor keeps asking her if she’s taking her medication correctly and reminds her not to drink alcohol. She always lies to him. Sometimes she can’t remember if she took her medicine and other times she’s taking a second dose or just taking them when she feels like it. She often swallows her pills with a gulp of wine.
I don’t think this is a fair portray of agoraphobics. Granted, it’s hard to regulate the medication for anyone with a severe mental illness, but to turn the patients into compulsive lying, reckless, drunks is just insulting.
I almost gave this book three stars because of that one twist that I hated and Finn’s portrayal of agoraphobia. Overall, I loved the writing and the story enough that I’m not going to let my personal differences affect my rating.
I don’t want to end this on a negative note, because it is a highly enjoyable read. I loved all of the Hitchcock movie references. There were many times when I wanted to watch one of those movies again. I rarely drink, but when I do it’s red wine. Anna drank merlot, but I prefer pinot noir. There were so many times when I wanted to pour myself a glass of wine while I read this book. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
I still recommend The Woman in the Window to psychological thriller fans.
Trigger Warnings: Agoraphobia, panic disorders, and alcoholism