Posted in Back of the Shelf

Back of the Bookshelf! The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

I reached to the back of the shelf for this 2018 paperback copy of The Woman in the Window. There’s a strong Rear Window vibe to this thriller, as our lead character Anna Fox, is trapped within her house, only living through the lives of her neighbours, who she watches through her binoculars. Instead Rear Window’s physical disability, she is restricted by her mental health, which has suffered a response to extreme trauma. Some unknown traumatic incident has resulted in agoraphobia and she has spent ten months inside her large New York house, like a ghost. Before this, Anna was a successful psychologist and the fact that her affliction is a mental health issue really muddies the waters here. How far can we trust what she sees and experiences? Does her training mean we trust her more, or less?

No longer living with her own husband and daughter, she becomes obsessed with the Russell family across the road. A mother, father and teenage son. She is especially interested in the son, and his mother who she meets and names Jane Russell because of her likeness to the beautiful movie star. Her world is filtered through binoculars and her only interest seems to be the black and white movies she watches religiously most evenings. Then one night, as she surveys the neighbourhood, she sees something horrifying at the Russell’s. A scream rips through the evening air and alerts Anna to the Russell’s windows and all she can do is watch in horror. She can’t go out, so rings the police. What follows has everyone questioning Anna’s judgement, including herself. As she starts to suspect someone is getting into her house, her fears increase and she continually talks to her husband and daughter to assuage her anxiety. As she does we start to wonder, where exactly are her family? Why did they leave and will they ever return?

This is one of those thrillers that I can devour in one sitting. It has an elegance and old-fashioned feel that Hitchcock would have optioned on the spot. Incidentally, there is a Netflix series that I’m now dying to watch. Anna is intriguing. I wanted to trust her, but my head was constantly full of questions. I was instantly suspicious of her charming and handsome downstairs lodger too, as well as Mr. Russell. The depiction of Anna’s panic attacks was so realistic and had me holding my breath. The severity of her symptoms, on the few occasions she does try to go beyond the front door, had me fearing the revelations about her past. The pacing was perfect, the tension never let up and I found myself taking it everywhere so I could squeeze in a few more pages whenever I got the chance. I was so impressed when I found out this was a debut, because it feels like a classic. I also made the assumption it was written by a woman, which showed up my reading prejudice about men writing women characters. In all this was an enjoyable and enthralling tale, with a nod to film noir that was very satisfying for this black and white movie lover. I can’t believe that this has been at the back of my shelf until now and I’m glad I decided to give it a go.

Meet The Author

A.J.Finn

THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW has been sold in 43 territories around the globe. The film adaptation, starring Amy Adams, Gary Oldman, and Julianne Moore, will be released worldwide in autumn 2019. The movie directed by Joe Wright, written by Tracy Letts, and produced by Scott Rudin.

I spent a decade working in publishing in both New York and London, with a particular emphasis on thrillers and mysteries. Now I write full-time, to the relief of my former colleagues. THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW was inspired by a range of experiences: my lifelong love affair with suspense fiction, from the Sherlock Holmes stories I devoured as a kid to the work of Patricia Highsmith, whom I studied at the graduate level at Oxford; my passion for classic cinema, especially the films of Alfred Hitchcock; and my struggles with depression and mental health. The result, I hope, is a psychological thriller in the vein of Gillian Flynn, Tana French, and Kate Atkinson, among others.

Stuff I love: reading; swimming; cooking; dogs; ice cream; travel. (Note that third semicolon. It’s crucial. I do not love cooking dogs.) I collect first-edition books and enjoy spending time with my French bulldog, Ike.

From A.J. Finn’s Amazon Author Page 21/01/22

Posted in Back of the Shelf

Books At The Back Of My Shelf

One of my book shelves.

As I go through other blogger’s fantastic end of year book lists, it strikes me how many brilliant books I haven’t had time to read. That’s not because I’m one of life’s busy people – I don’t work, the girls are only with us part-time, I’m still semi-shielding, and I have a carer/cleaner – I’m hardly plagued with Virginia Woolf’s worries and yes, I do have a room of my own. I could be reading more, but mainly I could be making better choices. The problem is I become distracted. I’m distracted by the same things a lot of other book bloggers are: should I be on Tik-Tok? Should I be chasing this year’s hottest release? Do I have enough Twitter followers? Is a photograph better than a review? How do I stay relevant? Is anyone even reading this? It’s so easy to spend half your day on Twitter or Instagram looking at other people’s beautiful and creative content and thinking ‘should I be doing that too?’

The only answer is to do what you love. I’m never going to be a major book influencer with followers in the millions, merchandise and a whole new income stream. So I have to think, what is it I enjoy about book blogging? Well, I love the Book Twitter community, the bloggers, blog tour organisers, the publishing assistants and other writers. By talking to writers over the last few years I’ve had so much encouragement and advice about my own writing, that I could see myself actually finishing my own book. People have been generous and kind with their time and their tips on how to be a book blogger. I love reading, discovering new authors and broadening my reading choices. I love writing about characters, their stories, their psychology and really championing those books that make my heart sing. I can do all of these things without putting myself under pressure, without chasing every new book, without joining every blog tour or buying every special edition. I can do this without pressuring or challenging myself even more than last year.

My village book exchange

That’s not to say I don’t appreciate those who take stunning Insta photos, or know a flat lay from a stack, because I do. Some people are absolute artists! I also admire those who worked hard to remain up to date and relevant, but it’s not always me. It takes me a long time to understand and adopt new apps and methods of getting the book love across. So in short, I’m going to worry less and read more of the books I already have. Stress less and enjoy this more. I’m going to spend more time writing my own work, putting new books into our village book exchange, and reaching to the back of the shelf for those books I didn’t get to this year. I’m going to write about those back of the shelf books and celebrate what I have as much as the new. I can’t believe I haven’t yet read The Appeal by Janice Hallet or Still Life by Sarah Winman, but they are both tucked away on the shelf. I’m going to look forward to those books I’ve highlighted for 2022, but not worry if I don’t get to them all. I’m also including my NetGalley shelf in this, which I’m afraid to say, is cluttered with forgotten gems and new books due to be published as far away as next summer!

It’s easy to forget why we do this. I need to remember those reasons, to simply enjoy being part of this great book community. To relax and celebrate the journey, rather than stress and strain towards an unknown goal. Here’s wishing you all a deliciously bookish 2022 and I look forward to chatting and sharing with you all this coming year. ❤️📚