Autumn · books · Read · Reading · Review · Thriller

Book Review: ‘Watching You’ by Lisa Jewell

Hello everyone, and welcome back to The Bookworm’s Fantasy! I hope you’re all doing well. Today I’m posting my review of Lisa Jewell’s psychological thriller, ‘Watching You‘. I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to those of you who enjoy psychological thrillers, particularly those more focused on character than plot! Keep reading to discover my thoughts…

watching you

You’re back home after four years working abroad, new husband in tow.

You’re keen to find a place of your own. But for now you’re crashing in your big brother’s spare room.

That’s when you meet the man next door.

He’s the head teacher at the local school. Twice your age. Extraordinarily attractive. You find yourself watching him.

All the time.

But you never dreamed that your innocent crush might become a deadly obsession.

Or that someone is watching you.

** TRIGGER WARNING ** Contains repeated references to paedophilia and grooming. Explores the theme of murder and includes the grizzly details of a crime. Contains references to sex and infidelity. Contains references to domestic violence, including physical and emotional abuse. Contains brief references to suicide. Also explores mental illness and learning difficulties.

‘Watching You’ was released on 12th July 2018, and it is Lisa Jewell’s 16th novel. Her most popular novels include ‘The Truth About Melody Browne’ (2010), ‘After The Party’ (2010), ‘The Making Of Us’ (2011), ‘The House We Grew Up In’ (2013), ‘The Third Wife’ (2014), ‘The Girls’ (2015), ‘I Found You’ (2016) and ‘Then She Was Gone’ (2017). She lives in London with her family and writes full-time.

The novel has received many positive reviews, from the likes of Sun: “Both utterly gripping and startlingly original”, Daily Mail: “An emotional and clever read” and Daily Express: “I defy you to put this addictive book down until you reach the final heart-breaking page”. Many fellow authors also loved the book, such as Clare Mackintosh: “Fresh and intriguing, with characters so real I ached for them”, Sarah Pinborough: “I inhaled it in one sitting” and Alice Feeney: “Brilliantly plotted and impossible to put down.”

‘Watching You’ follows a small cast of characters who inhabit the village of Melville. When Joey moves into her brother’s house in Melville, she becomes immediately drawn to her new, mysterious neighbour. She can’t keep her eyes off of him…but she’s not the only one who’s watching.

The narrative is told in the third-person throughout, and it is told in the style of diary entries. Each chapter/section focuses on a different character – we mainly follow the characters of Joey Mullen, Tom Fitzwilliam, Freddie Fitzwilliam and Jenna Tripp. There are also extracts included from a police investigation/interviews. The narration is distanced but still informative, and the reader is given a deep insight to the characters’ lives.

Although definitely not the most likeable character, Tom Fitzwilliam was probably my favourite character, simply due to the fact that I felt he was the most complex and three-dimensional character. He’s the headmaster of the local school in Melville, and is dedicated to improving the experiences of the children and teachers there. He’s charming and charismatic, and everybody seems to love him. But he’s very mysterious, and there’s definitely a lot more to him than first meets the eye. He also has a dark streak, which he likes to keep hidden from his professional life. He was definitely the most interesting character in the novel.

Joey Mullen has recently moved in with her brother whilst she saves some money. She starts a brand new job at a childrens’ activity centre, and she’s keen to make new friends in the village. She is immediately fascinated by Tom Fitzwilliam, and she finds that she cannot stay away from him. But she soon discovers that he’s dangerous, and maybe she’d be better off trusting only herself. Joey is pretty naive and inexperienced, and she’s a very kind person who is keen to please. But there’s definitely more to her that’s lurking beneath the surface.

Then we have the younger generation, and I’m going to discuss Freddie Fitzwilliam and Jenna Tripp in particular. Freddie is Tom’s son, and he has been dragged in and out of schools, depending on where his father is working at the time. He’s very insecure and is keen to make friends at his new school. But he’s quite different to those around him, and his fellow classmates don’t necessarily take a liking to him. Jenna Tripp is a student at Tom’s school, and she takes an immediate liking to her headmaster. However, she is very intelligent, and soon begins to think that there is something not quite right about him. She’s keen to discover the truth about Tom, and stop her friend Bess from falling in too deeply with him.

Other characters in the novel include the other inhabitants of the village of Melville, and police detectives. There is a relatively small cast of characters, but each brings something fresh and exciting to the novel.

** TRIGGER WARNING ** The central theme in this novel is exploring the difficulties in the student/teacher relationship, including references to child grooming and paedophilia. The novel explores a murder which has taken place, and includes the grizzly details of the crime. The novel also includes references to sexual activity and infidelity. One of the later themes that arises is domestic violence, and the novel includes scenes detailing both physical and emotional abuse. The novel includes brief, implicit references to a historic suicide. And finally, the novel explores the issues of mental illness and learning difficulties. There are a lot of issues addressed in this novel, and if any of these may trigger a negative response, I suggest you skip this book.

As the narrative motors on, the story becomes more and more bizarre. It becomes difficult to work out who is telling the truth and who is lying, and nothing is as it seems. Something very dark and mysterious is happening, and it’s up to the reader to carry on reading to unravel the truth! It’s quite a unique novel in the sense that you really don’t know what is happening until the very end.

So, let’s talk about the ending! There’s a fantastic end scene in which the truth is finally revealed, and the pieces of the puzzle finally fit together. Everything clicks into place, and we finally learn who the bad guy really is. I was really pleased with the ending of the novel and the ways in which the events were resolved. It was totally unexpected, but thinking about it now, it all makes perfect sense!

Overall, I highly recommend this novel to those of you who enjoy psychological thrillers, particularly those of you who like more character-driven stories. It wasn’t quite for me as I felt it was a bit too slow-paced for my liking and there wasn’t quite enough suspense – but I really appreciate this book and all that it was trying to do! If you like character-driven psychological thrillers, this is definitely one to read!

Sound good? Purchase ‘Watching You’ here.

Happy reading 🙂

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