Right, so I finished reading ‘The Widow’ by Fiona Barton a while back (last year in fact) but it has taken me ages to get around to writing this review because I’ve been so busy with work, training for my run and my marketing course (which I have now completed thank god!).
This book was on Richard and Judy’s Autumn 2016 Book Club list, and Penguin Random House were kind enough to send me a copy to review. If you know me, then you know that I am always more than happy to read anything Richard and Judy recommend. This book was also marketed as filling the void for those who had read ‘The Girl on the Train’ by Paula Hawkins – and since I absolutely hated ‘The Girl on the Train’ (never read such utter rubbish in my life), I wasn’t sure what to expect with ‘The Widow’ really. Anyhoo, I was intrigued enough with the premise to want to read it and I’m happy to say it was no where near as awful as ‘The Girl on the Train’ (I think I am even more angry with the latter because I fell for its marketing and actually forked out and paid the full price for the book – AND I NEVER DO THIS, EVERRR. All my books are either second hand, gifts or free from publishers (love y’allll)).
The first thing that took me by surprise is that the setting for ‘The Widow’ is actually based in my hometown Southampton/Hampshire! This is always a pleasant surprise, and always improves my enjoyment of a novel I find, as I know all the locations mentioned in the book! This was certainly the case with another thriller I read quite a while back, in which the setting was also based in Southampton, and which I thoroughly enjoyed – ‘Eeny Meeny’ by M. J. Arlidge – I guess Southampton’s the place for novels about paedos and serial killers ehhh.
‘The Widow’ is based on the story of the wife who’s husband was accused of abducting (and potentially abusing and murdering) a child in Southampton, after he is killed by being hit by a bus. After his death, Jean Taylor – the widow – comes out of the woodworks and is ready to tell her side of the story to the newspapers, as she was largely silenced while her accused husband was alive.
The blurb hooked me quite quickly (I’ve nicked this from Amazon.co.uk – thanks Amazon XD ):
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.
The book is told from multiple perspectives including the wife/widow, the police inspector (is it terrible that I always imagine police officers round and tubby and eating donuts – pretty sure this was the description in this book too lolz), and the journalist. I admit the characters did have rather generic traits about them/standard trope-like descriptions – but I’m not sure how many people this would bother apart from myself really. The widow is a rather lackluster female lead, with a somewhat boring and monotone voice – but I am guessing this was used to invoke her situation of being rather depressed, confused and not the brightest bee in the world.
You start off with sympathising with her but as the story goes on, you realise that she’s kind of weird and creepy and is certainly hiding something. There aren’t major twists and turns, but there is a pace about the novel and key unfolding of events that keeps you turning the page, as you just don’t know who the culprit of the crime is, even though the assumption and the main thread of the novel is that it is the husband (* spoiler * it is him, but the novel is constructed in a way that makes you question the validity of this as it alludes to the possibility of several suspects).
What I enjoyed about this story is that it is a psychological thriller and the fact that I had no idea how the novel was going to end. The ending however – I won’t ruin it for ya – was a bit anti-climactic and a bit… meh?? I dunno, I just expect a bit more from my thrillers I guess. It is certainly a decent autumn/winter read and I would recommend it if you are looking for something easily digestible which doesn’t require too much investment. I do believe the reviews of the book are somewhat over-hyped, which may have increased my expectations of the novel and thus left me less than dissatisfied. I am going to give this book an honest rating of 2.5 stars out of 5.