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The Widow Mass Market Paperback – January 17, 2017
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The Amazon Book Review
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“If you liked Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, you might want to pick up The Widow by Fiona Barton. Engrossing. Suspenseful.”—Stephen King
“The ultimate psychological thriller! Barton carefully unspools this dark, intimate tale of a terrible crime, a stifling marriage, and the lies spouses tell not just to each other, but to themselves in order to make it through.”—Lisa Gardner, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Find Her and Right Behind You
“A twisted psychological thriller you’ll have trouble putting down.”—People
“Fiona Barton’s debut novel, The Widow, is being compared to Gone Girl, Before I Go To Sleep and The Girl on the Train. It’s actually better than them all.”—Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“[A] twisty tale...with a mesmerizing if unreliable narrator...that will blow your mind.”—Oprah.com
“[Jean is] a fascinating puzzle...Barton knows how to ramp up tension.”—The New York Times Book Review
“[Barton] delivers the goods...Richly character-driven in a way that is both satisfying and engrossing.”—The Washington Post
“[The Widow] will keep you in suspense late into the night.”—Good Housekeeping
“Barton skillfully weaves a tale that reminds us that yes, we can be deceived by others, but we can just as easily deceive ourselves.”—USA Today
“Both a taut reconstruction of a crime and a ruthless examination of marriage...A smartly crafted, compulsively readable tale about the lies people tell each other, and themselves, when the truth is the last thing they really want to know.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Barton’s writing is compelling and top-notch.”—Associated Press
“Gone Girl fans will relish this taut, psychological thriller.”—US Weekly
“The Widow never loses sight of the dark secrets that define ordinary lives, the gray areas where deception gives way to the truth. This is one book in which such subtleties matter as much as the plot.”—Chicago Tribune
“[Barton’s] journalistic eye is what makes this debut novel so assured and compelling.”—NPR.org
“Every once in awhile, a suspense thriller comes along that grips readers and won’t let go....Joining that mini-library is The Widow by Fiona Barton, a thoroughly chilling novel with one of the most unreliable narrators in recent memory.”—The Sacramento Bee
“I read The Widow with an increasing sense that I was turning the pages through next year’s The Girl on the Train. It has all the ingredients for a bestseller—a clear proposition and a central premise that will stimulate word of mouth.”—The Bookseller (UK)
“A twisty psychological suspense that held me spellbound. Fiona Barton delves into the darkest reaches of the husband and wife relationship and the secrets they keep.”—Linda Castillo, New York Times bestselling author of Among the Wicked
About the Author
Fiona Barton, the New York Times bestselling author of The Widow and The Child, trains and works with journalists all over the world. Previously, she was a senior writer at the Daily Mail, news editor at the Daily Telegraph, and chief reporter at the Mail on Sunday, where she won Reporter of the Year at the British Press Awards.
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The problem I have is (and this seems to be recurring for me with some books these days) the media department of the publisher who has hyped and hyped this book as being in the vein of Gone Girl or Girl on the Train. IT IS NOT. Please don't expect it to be a twisty-turny plot with surprises. There are no surprises. Everyone knows from the get-go who did this. There is no last minute plot twist. It simply is a well-written story (not a mystery, not a "thriller") about the aforementioned three people most involved in the young girl's disappearance. The characters are well-written and pretty fleshed out. But what you read in the first couple chapters *is* the story.....the rest of the novel just takes you through how the characters deal with the fall-out.
If you're looking for a psychological thriller (which I wouldn't have been had not the publisher advertised it as such), you'll be disappointed. But if you just want an interesting story that is really just a look at people's lives while they deal with this tragedy, then you might enjoy it. So I knocked off a star for the marketing department....shame on them.
The Widow brings us into the life of Jean Taylor, who has recently become a widow when her husband was killed by a bus. As Jean tries to navigate this loss, she is bombarded by press and police alike. Why? Because her husband was also the number one suspect in the disappearance of a young, local girl several years ago. Jean always stood by his side, but now that he is gone, will the truth come to light?
This book could have been very interesting. I was intrigued by the idea of a woman trapped by a controlling monster, and who she will become now that he was gone. But it wasn't really like that at all.
I had several problems with this book. First, it was told from several different perspectives. This is not a problem in itself. I've read several books who employ this tactic, and if done skillfully, it can work really well. It did not work in this case. The 3 main perspectives we get are - The Widow, The Detective, and The Reporter. But only The Widow's is written in first person. The other 2 are done in 3rd person, and this can be a bit hard to read. It makes you continually stop and try and remember whose chapter this is. I am sure the author did this to establish Jean as the main character, but it really just didn't flow well.
Also, while I really enjoyed the chapters written from the detective's perspective (I read a lot of police procedurals and I thoroughly enjoy the solving of a crime aspect), I felt like the reporter's segments were just filler - to make the book longer. They didn't really add anything to the story. And I didn't care for the character of the reporter at all. And that's fine - there are going to be unlikeable characters in a book. But I felt like the author was trying to MAKE her likeable. There were constant references to how the people she wrote about would stay in touch with her and trust her, like she was a good friend to them. But the woman came across as very manipulative and self-serving to me. I didn't enjoy her chapters at all.
And, really, the main character wasn't hugely likeable either. I couldn't even muster up much sympathy for her. As the book goes on, we find out more and more about her husband, and he was a vile person, to be sure. But the way the book was set up, you kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. She's going to really turn things around. I guess she did technically kill her husband, but I kind of suspected that all along and the way it was done felt very anticlimactic. In the end, I didn't sense this big, powerful shift from her, just that she went a bit mad. And I don't know that she was ever going to expose the truth, if she hadn't been found out.
The author also randomly inserts a chapter or two from the POV of the grieving mother of the missing child, as well as Jean's husband, the alleged abductor. These not only felt like more filler, but the chapter from Glen's POV was really disturbing. I don't need to get that up close and personal with the mind of pedophile. I think it was a cheap way to reveal more about what happened to the girl, and it didn't pay off, IMO.
There was a real problem with the timeline and pacing as well. The book starts in present time, then takes us back to the time of the child's disappearance; then flits back and forth across the years. Again, this can work well if done right. But I felt like too much was revealed too soon. At the start of the book you know the husband is dead and isn't in jail. From fairly early on you know the child was never found. It's pretty easy to ascertain what is going to happen. There is no suspense, no fun reveals, very little build up. It's basically a slow burn to the inevitable.
The only reason I didn't get fewer stars is because the writing is pretty good and the concept was good in theory. But this story was just not executed well.
Jean Taylor is a perfect London housewife, a little untidy. Her husband, Glen, is controlling. He married her young and convinced her of his importance in the world. Most of it was a lie, but Jean doesn't seem particularly upset by that. In fact she's not particularly upset about much of anything, including the fact that Glen was just run over by a bus. What does upset her is the ever-present horde of reporters wanting to get her story.
It seems that Glen just may have kidnapped beautiful little Bella, who was out playing in her yard one minute and, the next minute, was gone.
Despite Bella's mother's tearful pleas on the media, and the dedicated detecting of Bob Sparks, no trace of Bella is ever found.
Glen is the prime suspect. His truck was seen in the area the day Bella was snatched. And there are other clues, as well. But nothing can be proved.
And so Jean and Glen continue to live their "normal" life, Bob Sparks continues to obsessively pursue the case, and crack reporter Kate Waters continues to pursue Jean for the real heretofore untold story.
How much does Jean really know? What did Glen really do? Was he the monster others thought him to be? What happened to little Bella? What can Bob Sparks discover from the midst of his own obsessions?
FIONA BARTON's carefully written tale explores the tale from three points of view: Jean's, Kate Waters', and Bob Sparks'.
For the record, contrary to the blurbs, THE WIDOW is not THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN. In fact, I wish reviewers would stop plastering that on the covers of books. It is, however, a compellingly eerie story.
What's great about it? Lots. Here are the Top Ten Things That Are Great About THE WIDOW:
10. Fiona Barton can really write. Her sentences flow, the moods emerge from the pages, the story tracks well.
9. Mysteriously creepy. You'll be wondering until the very end. What did happen to Bella?
8. The many disguises of a monster. You've seen the little internet quizzes where you have to pick out the serial killer and you invariably pick the investment banker or the scout leader. The point is correct: it is not always easy to spot a monster.
7. Look in the dictionary under co-dependent and you will find pictures of Glen and Jean. He has his way things need to be done and she adapts. They stick together while they are not really together. The description of the dynamic is fascinating.
6. Something to ponder. Can you really live with someone day in and day out and not know who or what they really are?
5. Ever deal with someone who has excuses for every behavior? Nothing is ever his fault? Meet Glen. Be glad you didn't marry him.
4. Three story-lines are told in perfect balance with each other.
3. Character, character, character. Barton has come up with four wildly diverse characters: Jean, Glen, Kate Waters, and Bob Sparks. They are delicately drawn and understood.
2. A nice time capsule from 2006 - 2010.
1. The surprise. Wait for it.
No fair skipping ahead.