Favourite Pastime: The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn (2018)

A.J. Finn’s debut novel follows the trajectory of a lot of modern novels. A woman (or middle-aged ‘girl’) suffering from some sort of trauma, alienated from family and friends, turning into an alcoholic, popping in a lot of pills, passes time by involving herself in the lives of others: snooping on them, stalking them, gathering information about them via the internet… in short, becoming a total nuisance.

Anna Fox is no different. Separated from her husband and little girl, she passes her time in a palatial NY mansion by snooping on her neighbours. One family, esp, holds her attention, that of the Russells who live across her but whose rooms are so close to Anna’s that she is always able to peer through. Is that how the Upper Class lives in NY? Without any privacy? What is the use of buying those millionaire-mansions if you are forever being viewed? Anna even clicks photos of them! When did voyeurism become an art form?!

Anna, who is suffering from both physical and mental ailments, has weekly visits from a masseur and a psychiatrist though Anna herself is a child psychologist who dispenses free advice on a web-site. She feels that Ethan, teenage son of the new neighbours, the Russells, is being abused and so starts spying on them. She is also visited by Ethan’s mother, Jane, who tells her that her husband, Alistair is good but controlling. A few days later, Anna sees Jane shouting at somebody and then being stabbed. Anna who suffers from agoraphobia tries to rush towards their home but collapses and the police, of course, don’t believe her, when she wakes up in a hospital later. Whom can Anna turn to?

Found nothing new in the book. There is a twist in the middle which I had already guessed, nor was I impressed by the twist in the end. Like the girls/ women in trains and cabins, Anna is also a boring character without any life of her own. Unreliable narrator, which used to be such a great literary device, has been corrupted to such an extent that it has lost all its novelty and the use of present tense does not add anything to the book. However, people have liked the book a lot so perhaps you might enjoy it too. If you have read the book, do let me know why the first chapter was devoted to the Millers?

*

First Line: Her husband’s almost home.

Publication Details: 2018. London: Harper Collins, 2018.

Pages: 427

Other Opinions: Crime by the Book

10 thoughts on “Favourite Pastime: The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn (2018)

  1. I admit, Neeru, I’ve not read the book. But you ask such good questions about it, and make some really thoughtful commentary here. There are certainly a lot of protagonists like Anna out there, and to me, they’re not appealing. To be honest, if I don’t have any interest in a character, I can’t invest myself in the reading experience. And it does seem odd that someone with that sort of money would live with so little privacy. No, if I’m being frank, this one doesn’t interest me, although your review is excellent as ever.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Margot. I think a majority of the writers nowadays play safe and think that this: unreliable narrator, isolated woman, peeping Tom is a winning formula so let’s just stick to it. Psychological suspense which at one time meant Turn of the Screw or Dr. J and Mr. H has become so degraded, sorry to say. Do let us know what you as an author feel about this ‘playing safe’.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks, Neeru. And you ask an interesting question about ‘playing safe.’ I’m not going to lie; following a formula may get an author a contract. But the most memorable books – the ones that stay with us and can even become classics – are not formulaic. So as an author, there are certain things I do that are conventional (believable motive, building suspense in certain ways, etc..). That’s what makes for a good story. But I do not look to the current blockbuster sellers to decide what and how I’ll write. Of course, I’m not a best-selling author, so what do I know??

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Though I have not read any of your books Margot because unfortunately your books don’t seem to be available in India, I am really thankful that you haven’t followed this formula despite it being lucrative. It shows a real commitment to your work. I am not the best judge of this as I hardly read any new crime fiction but the ones that I have read are so repetitive and irritating that I see something being marketed as ‘psychological suspense’ and just give a sigh. As far as bestsellers list go, have been wary of them since the time I was in college and started reading books marked International bestseller/ NYT bestseller. I think one of our renowned columnists, Khushwant Singh also wondered abut this once. I hope I am able to find that piece, want t go thru it again. I wish you luck in your writing career and hope your books become available in India.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Thank you for the kind words, Neeru. That means a lot to me. I would love for books (not just mine!) to be available more globally than they are. There have been several times when I wanted to read one thing or another, only to find I couldn’t get it in the US, or if I could, only for an exorbitant price. I understand there are legalities when it comes to international publishing. But surely publishers would want to make their products widely available. Perhaps I just don’t understand how that works.

            At any rate, I am wary of the ‘bestseller’ label, too, unless I know and like the author’s work. And, yes, I get my fill of that term ‘psychological suspense,’ as well. I’ve been disappointed often enough that I rarely feel books like that are worth the investment of reading.

            Liked by 1 person

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