The Widow by Fiona Barton
Publisher: Bantam Press
Publishing Date: 14th January 2016
Source: Copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Genre: Literature/Fiction (Adult), Mystery, Thriller
‚The ultimate psychological thriller’ Lisa Gardner
We’ve all seen him: the man – the monster – staring from the front page of every newspaper, accused of a terrible crime.
But what about her: the woman who grips his arm on the courtroom stairs – the wife who stands by him?
Jean Taylor’s life was blissfully ordinary. Nice house, nice husband. Glen was all she’d ever wanted: her Prince Charming.
Until he became that man accused, that monster on the front page. Jean was married to a man everyone thought capable of unimaginable evil.
But now Glen is dead and she’s alone for the first time, free to tell her story on her own terms.
Jean Taylor is going to tell us what she knows.
There was so much buzz about „The Widow” on Twitter that started last year, and I was really desperate to see what it is about. I haven’t read any reviews before I started to read this book, as „The Widow” is a debut novel by Fiona Barton and I wanted to see for myself if the book is going to live up to my expectations, to make a picture of it by myself. And did it pass? Yes and no.
I was curious how Fiona Barton has plotted this novel because, let’s be honest, there is something clichéd in it already from the beginning – it is about the child gone missing, and wherever a child is involved, it’s for sure going to be an emotional, heart – wrenching story, but will it be enough to make the novel outstanding? Lately there are many books published, many psychological thrillers, casting missing children, police officers that don’t want to give up on the case and having a help from a journalist, then we have parents that are very easy to suspect – and „The Widow” has it all as well. And I was really hoping there is going to be something that will take me totally by surprise.
I had a feeling that some of the subplots were opened but then they faded away and were not mentioned again, or that some of them were left open, just like with the crippled driver for example, and the feeling that not everything was explained can’t leave me. And I think that killing the accused in an accident (it’s not a spoiler, we know this from the very first page of the story) was choosing a soft option. Also, I was a little deceived by the synopsis, and by author’s note at the beginning, as both promised we are going to get answers to who are the women/men „gripping the other halves’ arms on the courtroom stairs”, who stand behind the accused – I still have those questions. I didn’t find an answer to them.
But nevertheless, this book has me hooked. Literally hooked. It aroused all kind of emotions in me – there were tears, there was compassion, hopelessness, hope, despair and loathing. It also offered a different angle – we usually hear from the victim or from the family of the victim, and here the plot focuses on the one who’s accused to commit this crime and his wife – so here we have the way out of the „clichéd”.
Almost all the characters were so unpleasant! Ok, at the beginning I didn’t know what to think – yet – and so mostly I had compassion with almost all of them. But when the action started to untwist, when the author started to add new info, new suspicions, new explanations I started to change my mind, and truly, I began to suspect almost all of the characters. Ms Barton has managed to pull me in in the tangled web of lies, deception, secrets and alibis and I really started to believe that any of the characters was capable to commit this crime. She has also managed to draw me into their lives, and I wanted to see what’s going to happen, what they feel and whether they’re telling the truth. And also, she has made the characters complex, gave them many layers, and unpeeling, unwrapping those layers was incredibly gripping.
I am in two minds about the journalist Kate, who wouldn’t stop at anything to get the information she needed for her article. On the other hand, that’s the way the journalists probably are. Also, the author gave Kate’s character incredible authenticity, and she also brilliantly and sharply portrayed the way the present journalism works, their priorities and their part in competition with other social medias. Then we have the widow herself, Jean, and I think she was one of the most complicated characters I’ve come across and I really didn’t know what to think about her. There were moments that she felt so pathetic, and her life sounded so awful that I felt for her, but then I turned the page and she showed herself as a cold person without any feelings, to change into a doormat in the next second. There was never one face to her, and I am sure it was intended by the author, to show as many faces as possible, so that we’ll never be sure what’s going to come next and what we should, in fact, think about her. But deep inside I think that Jean was not as delicate and weak as she wanted people to see, and her strength was that she was able to play people as she liked – they see this face of her that she wanted to show them.
What I also enjoyed very much is the fact that the story is told from many different points of view. We can hear from Jean, from Kate, from the mother of the missing girl and from the police detective’s mouths, which gives us a truly complete, but also variable, insight into where we are and what is happening. The jumping between past and present didn’t make me feel confused, it only added much more tension to the whole story. I guess that with such controversial topic the book doesn’t need a „wow – moment”, doesn’t need any more fireworks, but nevertheless I was waiting for something bigger to come and hit me on the head – and by „bigger” I mean a surprising end, which wasn’t – but maybe it’s my fault that I was banking on such ending like this one. Maybe not literally like this one, but more or less (more in this case) I guessed this twist.
This is a very fast paced story with many twists and turns and it touches upon some very controversial topics, and I think that this was one of the thing that kept me so glued to the pages – it was awful, it was cruel and I will never be able to embrace this. The author has a great power to draw you into the story, to make you a part of the characters’ world and you are just like the detective, you want justice for Bella. It was a great debut, and the author has shown that she’s not afraid to touch upon controversial, painful issues – I will be looking forward to Fiona Barton’s next book. Recommended!