Reviewing Fiona Barton’s The Widow

I first heard of Fiona Barton’s The Widow through twitter. It seemed as if the book tweeting world were very, very excited for this thriller and I wanted to get in on the psychological action. This is a story about Jean and her husband Glen and the little girl that may or may not be missing because of Glen. I was gripped and read it in one sitting only to then have the Mothership finish it even faster.

My full review is under the cut. There are going to be some mild spoilers and I will be talking about the plot.

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.

With a blurb like that I knew this book was going to have me gripped. Jean believed her husband when he told her he was innocent and she stood by him while the world called him a monster. After his death Jean hoped for a more normal life but with reporter Kate Waters and detective Bob Sparkes asking her questions, getting her to tell her side of the story it quickly becomes apparent that there is so much more to the disappearance of Bella than first thought.

The Widow is a multi-voice narrative and Jean, Kate, and Bob all get the chance to tell their side of the story. I loved this narrative structure because instead of being able to form your own opinions instantly you are confronted with three people with three very different versions of the truth and three very different motivations. You don’t know who to believe or what is the truth: Bob is convinced that Glen was guilty, Jean is traumatised by what happened with her life with Glen, and Kate thinks this is Jean’s only chance to prove her side of the story.

This thread of ambiguity running though The Widow is what had me gripped throughout. Why does Jean allow reporter Kate to finally hear her story? Was she really unaware of what Glen was up to? I could never get to grips with her and that is due to Barton’s brilliant storytelling. It didn’t help that Jean adopted a persona for herself, Jeanie, and both these women had very subtle differences in how they lived with Glen.

Fiona Barton started her career as a journalist and she has said that The Widow is based on her own experiences; during interviews she would wath the people who weren’t in the limelight, the loved ones and used to wonder how much they really new. In The Widow you get a battle between perception and reality and this coupled with unreliable narrators let me guessing until the very end. As I said I passed it straight onto the Mothership and haven’t stopped raving about it to friends. It’s already been optioned for TV and I can definitely see that it’ll translate well onto the small screen.

The Widow is out in hardback on the 14th of January from all good and evil retailers. I received the book for free. My review is definitely my own and neither it nor my opinions haven’t been swayed by the free book swag.

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