Kensington Publishing, July 28, 2015.
London From My Windows is the story of Ava Wilder, an agoraphobic who inherits a home from her aunt in London, with the caveat that she venture outside and explore the city. It is a story about issues that could have been explored in a meaningful way (mental illness, sexual identity) but instead they were glossed over and not given serious attention. The novel had a contrived, and really a silly premise, with lots of unnecessary drama.
As a reader who is not agoraphobic, it is difficult to comment on the realism of Ava’s portrayal, but to me it seemed almost like it was made into a joke – in fact, Ava’s love interest, Jasper, uses her experiences in his stand-up comedy routine. I did not feel like her mental illness was treated with any sensitivity, which made this hard to read. It is a serious anxiety disorder, but Ava’s time in London comes across as slapstick comedy.
Ava’s condition was triggered by her father’s death in the first scene of the novel – her mother blamed Ava for his death, and since then she cannot stand to face public life. However, I found it hard to believe that someone who needs to cloister herself at home would subject herself to walking around her place of employment with a bag over her head for protection. It made a mockery of the whole situation. On top of these issues, there were so many catches, tricks and set-ups used to move the plot forward, that there was no natural flow to the story.
As Ava says at one point, “Not every disability is visible…Some are hidden.” (Loc. 717) I liked that the author chose to explore the idea of hidden mental illness, and reminds us that we should treat everyone with care and compassion because we don’t know what’s going on inside their heads. But what I didn’t like was the way it was handled, with sometimes insensitive humour. The jokes were not exactly directed at Ava’s disability, but it just wasn’t funny to me.
I received this book for free from Kensington Publishing and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.