THE WIDOW by Fiona Barton
CBTB Rating: 4/5
THE WIDOW by Fiona Barton tells a relatively simple story that is anything but simple in its execution. The story’s title character, Jean, is the widow of a very bad man. While her husband was alive, Jean protected his secrets and bore the harassment that came with being the wife of a suspected criminal in silence. Now that her husband has passed away, Jean has a choice to make—is it finally time to tell the world what it was like living with that man, or are some secrets better left between husband and wife?
THE WIDOW will no doubt be compared to GONE GIRL and THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, and it’s true, this book can be fit into the same “marriage-gone-wrong” category that has been so popular recently. If you’ve grown tired of those comparisons (no shame there, I have!), don’t let that dissuade you from reading this book. THE WIDOW is a refreshingly original story about the heinous secrets and dark places that can exist between a husband and wife. Told in chapters that alternate between multiple narrators and time periods, THE WIDOW presents the reader with an addictively muddled picture of Jean, her husband, and the crime he was accused of committing. Slowly but surely, the puzzle pieces fall into place—the last 30 pages of this book left me totally shocked. You’ll be hooked on Barton’s indirect way of connecting the dots and gradually revealing the solution to the story’s mystery.
Barton’s lead character, Jean, is deliciously untrustworthy. I loved how impossible it was to guess her true motives. She is a woman who has spent her life forcing herself to be the perfect wife at any cost, and the persona she has constructed for herself is virtually impenetrable. She was so committed to her role of dutiful wife, she crafted a new identity for herself in her married life that she called "Jeanie." Jeanie never questioned her husband; Jeanie turned a blind eye to her husband's absences and "nonsense." But how innocent is Jeanie, really? How much did she really know about her husband’s personal life? Now that her husband is gone, will she continue living as Jeanie and serving her husband's memory, or come clean about his actions? Jean is one of the most compelling "unreliable narrators" I've read recently. Barton crafts a multifaceted and enigmatic main character—a woman you'll love to hate.
At its core, THE WIDOW is a story about truth: how it can be manipulated, twisted, and hidden. Each character in the story has his or her own relationship with the truth behind the story’s main crime. The widow (Jean) has hidden and altered her knowledge of the truth; the reporter (Kate) is pursuing the truth for personal gain; the detective (Bob) is seeking the truth to solve the story’s mystery. I was totally fascinated with the idea that each character is able to take pieces of the same truth and manipulate it to fit his or her own needs. Written with nuances and maturity that set it apart from its peer suspense novels, THE WIDOW will keep you engaged and guessing until the very last page.
THE WIDOW by Fiona Barton releases February 16, 2016, from The Berkley Publishing Group/New American Library. I highly recommend adding THE WIDOW to your list of thrillers to watch in 2016, I think this is going to be a big one!