Book Reviews

Book Review: Watching You: A Novel, by Lisa Jewell

Watching You: A Novel, by Lisa Jewell

Publication: Atria Books; December 26, 2018


watching youAbout the book:

Melville Heights is one of the nicest neighborhoods in Bristol, England; home to doctors and lawyers and old-money academics. It’s not the sort of place where people are brutally murdered in their own kitchens. But it is the sort of place where everyone has a secret. And everyone is watching you.

As the headmaster credited with turning around the local school, Tom Fitzwilliam is beloved by one and all—including Joey Mullen, his new neighbor, who quickly develops an intense infatuation with this thoroughly charming yet unavailable man. Joey thinks her crush is a secret, but Tom’s teenaged son Freddie—a prodigy with aspirations of becoming a spy for MI5—excels in observing people and has witnessed Joey behaving strangely around his father.

One of Tom’s students, Jenna Tripp, also lives on the same street, and she’s not convinced her teacher is as squeaky clean as he seems. For one thing, he has taken a particular liking to her best friend and fellow classmate, and Jenna’s mother—whose mental health has admittedly been deteriorating in recent years—is convinced that Mr. Fitzwilliam is stalking her.

Meanwhile, twenty years earlier, a schoolgirl writes in her diary, charting her doomed obsession with a handsome young English teacher named Mr. Fitzwilliam…

**My Review**

Wow, talk about some creepy people! Watching You, Lisa Jewell’s latest novel is set in the beautiful neighborhood of Melville Heights in Bristol. Among the gorgeous and colorful homes lives a doctor and his wife (Jack and Rebecca) and Jack’s sister and husband living in the upstairs apartment of their home (Joey & Alfie). Also on the street are a fifteen-year-old girl (Jenna Tripp)trying to deal with and keep secret that her mother is clinically paranoid, as well as a successful school headmaster, his wife, and his son (Tom, Nicola, and Freddie). 

Joey and Alfie met in another country while working at a resort, married quickly, and are now trying to start their adult lives back in Bristol. After settling for a job at a children’s party place/play center, Joey is trying to be positive and upbeat about her and Alfie’s future, but soon finds herself having a crush on her attractive, much older, and also married neighbor – Tom Fitzwilliam. Tom and Nicola’s teenage son Freddie has no friends and spends his time away from school spying on and photographing his neighbors from his window, or trying to decipher what problems are occurring within his parents’ marriage. Jenna Tripp is trying to live the life of a normal teenage girl but is constantly reeling in her mother who thinks that Tom and his son are spying on her. Then there is Jenna’s best friend, Bess, who has a major crush on their new headmaster, Tom Fitzsimmons, and begins behaving in a secretive way that makes Jenna fear something is going on between the two of them. 

I must admit that Watching You was slow to start for me, but it didn’t take very long for me to get very wrapped up into these characters – all of which had major issues. There is a great deal of eluding to the fact that Tom may or may not have some inappropriate relationships with students over the years. Joey is uncomfortable living with her brother and sister-in-law because she just doesn’t get warm and cozy vibes from Rebecca. Joey is also struggling with a huge crush on time, all the while trying to ward-off Alfie’s desire to discuss and possibly start trying to have a baby. Jenna’s mom is completely nuts, her friend Bess is being weird, and then there’s Freddie… Oh, Freddie, what a strange little stalker you are! This child creeped me out from beginning to end, despite some later insight into his behavior. If he wasn’t watching people out of the window or opening the window to listen, he was following a girl all around town and secretly buying her clothes. The child needed help. 

However, all of the craziness and chaos results in a wonderfully suspenseful novel! Unfortunately, I was about 95% sure “whodunnit” much earlier than was revealed, but this one still had me completely addicted until the very last line. Told from multiple points of view, Lisa Jewell beautifully set the stage for suspense as she alluded to so many shady things going on from so many different characters. Out of the entire novel, there was only one character that I truly felt was a normal, well-adjusted, and good person that also remained so for the entire book. Everyone else appeared guilty or weird or untrustworthy at one point or the other from beginning to end. 

The characterization in Watching You is incredible, however, it also makes several moments very cringe-worthy with Jewell’s honest and detailed writing. I will warn that there is some difficult narrative regarding bullying, but other than that, prepare yourself to be curious, excited, and eager as you rip through this very engaging, yet disturbing novel that stresses that we just because we think we know who someone is or what they’re thinking, doesn’t mean that we are even close to reality.

*Thanks to Atria and NetGalley for providing this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Purchase Watching You on Amazon!



4 thoughts on “Book Review: Watching You: A Novel, by Lisa Jewell”

  1. Hmm.I can’t tell you how many times I looked at this one and then skipped it over. It keep surfacing on blogs I follow and book lists, and I keep eying up thinking…maybe. I’m still not sure but your review has it bubbling higher up on my list.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mae, I think you would like it. The way the characters are built and how it deals with past and present would be right up your alley!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Between the super creepy and shady characters and how everyone’s current lives are tied to incidents from the past, I think you should check it out 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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