Gillian Flynn: Gone Girl (2012)

Gone Girl

So now I’m one of those who has read Gone Girl. Some bestsellers put me off because everyone reads them, others still make me want to find out what the fuss is all about. Gone Girl was one of the latter. You can’t pick up a recent crime novel without seeing a reference to Gone Girl, you can’t look at agent’s and editor’s picks without seeing it mentioned. Everyone, it seems, is looking for the next Gone Girl. Most of the time when I finally give in and read a book because of the hype, I’m disappointed. In this case it’s not as bad, but I still feel somewhat underwhelmed. Gone Girl has a major plot twist in the middle and an unexpected ending. And it is hugely manipulative, which may be the reason, why I wasn’t surprised by anything. I just felt I was led to assume one thing, while another was true. I saw the twist in the middle coming and foresaw the end. I also had the impression, I’ve read all this before, but I couldn’t come up with a book title. That’s when I realised that it has a similarity with some TV series like Damages and Breaking Bad, which I watched recently. They are both equally full of twists and turns. And I enjoyed them more.

So what’s it all about? On the day of their fifth anniversary beautiful, intelligent and witty Amy Dunne goes missing. A neighbour calls Nick at work and when he returns home, he finds his house wide open. He sees signs of a struggle in the living room and blood in the kitchen. What has happened to Amy? And why is Nick not as concerned as he should be? Police, media, neighbours, and even Amy’s parents, soon turn against Nick and suspect him to be a murderer.

The book is told by both Amy and Nick. Both are highly unreliable narrators. The only thing we know for sure is that their marriage went down the drain when they both lost their jobs and left New York, Amy’s hometown for Nick’s hometown North Carthage, Missouri. If they had only lost their jobs it would have been bad enough, but Amy, who was incredibly rich, loses most of her money. Amy’s psychologist parents are a successful writer duo. Their children’s book series Amazing Amy has earned them a fortune and made Amy into a celebrity. The only problem: the books are not as successful as they used to be. Bad investments and overspending have done the rest. Amy’s parents are broke and need Amy’s money.

Unfortunately it’s hard to write about this book in any depth without spoiling it. I’m glad I’ve read it. I can see why it appeals to many people. Gillian Flynn writes well and plots well. But from a psychological point of view, I found this unsatisfying. Both characters are described in great detail, but they didn’t come to life; they remain shallow, despicable card-board figures. When I think of the aforementioned series Damages, and the character Glenn Close plays, I see why I didn’t really appreciate Gone Girl. Glenn Close’s character is hateful and despicable, but she’s also admirable and touching. A fascinating, toxic mixture. Nick and Amy are just narcissistic ciphers.

Gone Girl is entertaining, but I don’t think it has anything pertinent to say about marriage or relationships, other than dysfunction + dysfunction = ultimate dysfunction. This was my second Gillian Flynn novel and I liked it less than the first, Sharp Objects. I’m curious to find out how Dark Places compares to these two.

Gillian Flynn: Sharp Objects (2006)

Sharp Objects

When two girls are abducted and killed in Missouri, journalist Camille Preaker is sent back to her home town to report on the crimes. Long-haunted by a childhood tragedy and estranged from her mother for years, Camille suddenly finds herself installed once again in her family’s mansion, reacquainting herself with her distant mother and the half-sister she barely knows – a precocious 13-year-old who holds a disquieting grip on the town. As Camille works to uncover the truth about these violent crimes, she finds herself identifying with the young victims – a bit too strongly. Clues keep leading to dead ends, forcing Camille to unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past to get at the story. Dogged by her own demons, Camille will have to confront what happened to her years before if she wants to survive this homecoming.

I had a feeling I might like Gillian Flynn very much that’s why I decided not to start with her latest novel, Gone Girl, but with her first,Sharp Objects That I went out to get the second, Dark Places, right after finishing this might tell you how much I liked it. She’s an author to my taste, but I have to admit I had a few “Ew!” moments while reading it. She’s not one to shy away from describing very sick things. What I liked was the voice, the taut writing and the story as such. While I had a feeling where this was going, I was still captivated.

Two girls are abducted in Camille’s hometown. One was found dead, her teeth missing, the other is still being searched for. Camille is a journalist for a very unglamorous newspaper in Chicago and her boss thinks it might be a good idea to send her home to investigate and write a few articles that might help the paper get out of its slump and Camille to improve her career. Knowing Camille her boss may have thought that going back to the place that hurt her and face her demons might be a healing experience. It isn’t. Camille is badly equipped to deal with her past and exposing herself to her toxic family and diving deep into the shadow aspects of her hometown take their toll. The sharp objects of the title refer to many different things and one is tied to Camille’s illness. If you have seen the US cover, you know already what I’m talking about. Camille is a cutter, only she’s not happy with slicing her body, she carves words into it. Meaningful words.

Right after Camille’s arrival, the second girl is found. Her teeth are missing too. What a bizarre, yet gruesome crime. Slowly the book reveals the truth behind the crimes and the hidden secrets of Camille’s family.

I don’t read in order to find “likable characters”. Or to say it in other words – I don’t need to bond with characters at all, but I think, I liked Camille, and was, once more, surprised how many people who reviewed this mentioned how much they hated her. Why? I don’t get it. Or maybe I do. It is as if there were some mental afflictions people are more hostile towards. If you’d like to label Camille, I’d say she’s suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder, one of a few afflictions, which get a lot of negative reactions. I thought Flynn drew a very believable character and I was rooting for her. I was hoping she might be able to come out of all of this healthier and stronger.

Sharp Objects is gripping and compelling and does a few daring things, one of which is showing that perpetrators come in many different forms.

This is my fourth contribution to Carl’s RIP challenge. Don’t miss visiting the RIP review site for other Mystery/Crime/Thriller/Ghost/Dark Fantasy related reviews.