Fiona Barton’s new book, “The Widow”, starts with Jean Taylor, the wife of the accused, narrating, as she does through much of the novel. The point of view switches between chapters with the point of view switching from the Widow, Reporter, and the Detective. It has been 4 years since little Bella Elliot went missing, while her mother Dawn left her unattended in the front yard. Glen Taylor became the prime suspect for the disappearance: he was charged with the crime, acquitted, and then he was killed stepping in front of a bus. All of these facts we learn in the first three pages of the book from Jean Taylor, who adds, “I was glad he was gone. No more of his nonsense."
Glen was not a nice person and was manipulative, controlling, secretive and emotionally abusive. Bob, the detective, is a hard-working, caring, honest man, who has found good reasons to suspect Glen of taking the little girl from her yard.
Kate is the only reporter, of the many who try, to break though to gain access to Jean Taylor. Kat really doesn’t know if, with that access, that she has learned anything or has just been played by Jean.
When Glen is killed the reporter and detective, both believing they have a relationship of trust with Jean, try to get her help, still hoping to learn what happened to Bella.
Jean does let Kate back into her life and says of that time: “Kate seems to be in charge of things. It's quite nice to have someone in charge of me again. I was beginning to think I'd have to cope with everything on my own."
What makes this an emotionally powerful novel is that none of the characters emerge at the ending in quite the same state as we perceived them in the beginning. They change and our feelings for them change.
Some critics suggest that Barton reveals too much, too soon, but the approach seems to be part of her process of building on what, in the beginning, were lies the characters were telling themselves. That approach does result in our being part of the change in seeing the characters differently: which was really a strength of the book.
Quotes about "The Widow" by Fiona Barton
“I remember looking at him lying there in a small pool of blood and thinking ‘oh well, that’s the end of his nonsense”
“The simple lies are the hardest, funnily enough. The big ones seem to just fall off the tongue:”
“It's a strange feeling, owning a secret. It's like a stone in my stomach, crushing my insides and making me feel sick every time I think of it.”