Yesterday it was back to winter, with coats and gloves and scarves (thankfully no snow!). But today the sun is out, the breeze is blowing, and it looks like it will be a fairly nice day, although not warm enough yet this morning to open the windows. My steaming cup of chai and delicious Date Bar are sitting on the table in front of me as I think about how I will comment on the book I read last week.
I got a copy of the bestselling novel The Woman in the Window by A J Finn from the big library conference I went to at the end of January, met the author briefly and even got it signed! This was by far the biggest draw in terms of author signings at the conference, and I happened to be at the right place at the right time, although I’m always wary of “bestsellers”, which usually turn out to be more “Canadian Tire” books than “Lee Valley” ones. This book was no exception. Child psychologist Anna Fox lives alone in a large house in New York City. For the past nine months, she has suffered from agoraphobia following a traumatic event in her life, and she has been unable to leave her house at all. Her estranged husband and daughter speak with her daily, and she has her necessities delivered to her door on a regular basis, but when she’s not playing online chess or participating in the Agora, an online support group for agoraphobics, she passes her time watching her neighbours, often using her camera’s zoom lens for better access. She also watches alot of classic movies, mainly noir films of the black-and-white variety, and consumes plenty of alcohol while juggling a wide array of pharmaceuticals in whatever dosage she feels she needs on any given day. When she witnesses a murder in the Russell house across the park, she notifies the police, but they are unable to find any trace of such an event. But despite the booze and drugs, Anna is sure of what she saw, so she goes about investigating as best she can while confined to her home. As she gets drawn further and further into the Russell family drama, she must face her own demons and work fast to discover the truth while also keeping herself safe from harm. OK, I know that the bestseller trend these days is psychological thrillers where the narrator can be described as “unreliable”, and I’ve read a number of them, although not the most popular ones like Gone Girl and Girl on a Train, and this one did not strike me as particularly original. It was a retelling of Hitchcock’s Rear Window, and, page after page, I was amazed that Anna was able to function at all, considering the amount of alcohol and pills she was consuming. And the language was so over-the-top that it grated on my nerves. When she receives a surprise email, “the air around me is suddenly thin… the mouse bulges against my palm”. When she tips the glass of wine to her lips (one of many!), she can “feel the flood of wine rushing down my throat, the fizz in my veins.” Trust me, it’s like this throughout the book, on every page. The story itself is OK, not original but still mildly interesting, but the over-the-top language and unbelievable main character, as well as the predictability of it all, made this a less-than-satisfying read. Having said that, it is a bestseller, so don’t take my word for it. But if I were to recommend this type of novel, my favourites are still The Silent Wife by A S A Harrison, The Widow by Fiona Barton, Before I Go to Sleep by S J Watson, and maybe even A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell. Oh, and I think I can add We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver onto this list, although it’s in a bit of a different category.
That’s all for today. Get outside and enjoy the warm-ish weather!Bye for now…