My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I’ve read and enjoyed several Lisa Jewell novels in the last two years. When an opportunity to read Watching You surfaced last month, I requested the book via NetGalley and was awarded it overnight. I was super excited and planned it for my October schedule so I could have a little scary / psychological stuff to read as the temperature got chillier and the sun set earlier. Overall, I was pleased with the book and would recommend it, but there were a few things that needed some additional attention before the final version was released to readers.
The story takes place in current times in an English village where several of the neighbors have a penchant for watching one another through binoculars, cameras, or even just between the separation of curtains in a window. There are ~20 important cast members’ lives we read about and try to understand who’s connected to who when they say things using generic names like “she” or “he” to keep us in suspense. There’s a newlywed couple, a couple with a baby on the way, a couple fighting, a mother and daughter who act weird, young teen friends who are hooking up with boys they shouldn’t be, a teen boy who is a bit peculiar at first (then we learn why)… all-in-all, it’s a fine cast with lots of potential but no one was superb or lovable or hate-able (my new word of the day!). As we understand the connections and who’s misbehaving, we begin to see how everything unravels until the big twist at about 90% in the book.
Unfortunately, I thought it was too easy to guess. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t good, but I believe it could have used some more mystery, red herrings, and darker tones. Additionally, several characters were manipulated to create red herrings (which I’m totally cool with) but the end of their story and the root cause of why it happened wasn’t really sewn back together. I don’t believe it was purposeful either, just not enough focus on total symmetry across the entire novel. Because of this and a few characters who weren’t as fleshed out as I thought they should be (Rebecca, mother of girl who took lots of photos, the group that met at the house), I couldn’t give it 5 stars.
The plot was strong, the characters were passionate. The dialog and descriptions were vivid and consistent. Rarely did I find myself tempted to skim/skip a few paragraphs. It was just missing something to make it really really pop. This is a genre I really love diving into, so it certainly met a lot of my go-to features but fell shy of where Jewell’s books normally take me. It has a few difficult stories to handle (I’m okay with them, but others might be alarmed) such as child abuse, spouse abuse, possible rape, affairs, teacher/student relationships being crossed. It’s almost as if the book wanted to cross a heavy line into being stark and scary, but it stopped too short to be a total dark psychological thriller and went too far to just say it gently handled these situations. We were in the middle and uncertain which way to gravitate on whether a character was black or white… several were muted grey in their tendencies and behaviors.
For me, in a book, it wavered too much. It’s probably very reminiscent of reality, but I wanted a bigger gut punch or a lighter hint at misbehavior. An example is the spouse abuse. One says “nothing is happening” and the other says “yes, we occasionally hurt one another” — I’m paraphrasing. We never get a real answer, so I’m uncertain why it was left that way when it was (1) not critical to the plot and (2) made us waffle on how we were supposed to interpret what was going on. Given the actual people involved were critical to the murder that happened, I felt we needed something more transparent.
That said, it’s still a very strong book. I will keep reading more from Jewell. And if you can accept these things, and still enjoy a great story, you’ll be fine with this one.
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. The debut book, Academic Curveball, in my new mystery series, Braxton Campus Mysteries will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. I read, write, and blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge –and multiple Readathons. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.