I think that the last time I wrote about a Lisa Jewell book I felt exhausted. A little worn out after having read so many of her novels in a relatively short period of time, a few of which had made me feel profoundly sad. When I picked up Watching You I felt that I was ready to go again, to leap in feet first and be immersed. How could I not be? Particularly when it was set in a city that I view as a home, Bristol.
What I do enjoy about Lisa Jewell is that her books somehow follow a path you know and yet there’s no way on earth that, as a reader, you could guarantee the destination. Watching You appears straightforward enough, but of course it isn’t. The story that you think you’re reading gets lost along the way, all mixed up and turned into something infinitely better.
Tom Fitzwilliam is one of those Principals, the kind that gets pulled into problem schools to turn them around and then having done his job to perfection, leaves and moves elsewhere. He’s handsome and dynamic, admired by students and adults alike and not simply for the job he does. Tom Fitzwilliam is all sexual chemistry and allure, a man who knows how to flatter women and young students alike. With this temperament comes a confusion and a past that he may, or may not be running from. Teenage girls find themselves lacking clarity around him; his wife appears to be almost abused, his son is highly dysfunctional with stalkerish tendencies and the neighbors variously ignore and lust after him. From the beginning of the book it’s clear that someone has been killed at his house, but who and why?
I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a Lisa Jewell novel quite so much since I Found You. Each short chapter pulls you in and then, just as you start to get somewhere you leave, Jewell moves you on, or back. Gradually, step by step, you begin to piece things together, to determine what is significant and what isn’t. Your feelings about Tom Fitzwilliam are as mixed as the characters that surround him and most importantly of all, it’s utterly absorbing. I’ll never look at a school Principal in quite the same way again!