Lady Cordelia #CBR5 Review #56: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

UnknownLibby Day was a child when her mother and two sisters were murdered in their home, and her older brother Ben has spent over twenty years in prison for the crime.  Though there were a number of holes in the case against Ben including a lack of physical evidence, Libby’s testimony was enough to convict him.  Now Libby is re-examining what she saw happen that night and trying to come to terms with her part in the consequences.

Told from current day perspectives from both Libby and Ben, and 1985 perspectives from Libby, Ben and their mother Patty, this is a twisty whodunit.  I liked the dual time narratives, especially as we see items fall into place that we know were cornerstones of Ben’s conviction, but are given the opportunity to see them completely differently when put into context.  Ben’s conviction really seemed to stem from his taste in “satanic” music, his family’s poverty, and that he was a loner.  Not too dissimilar from some other real life convictions, which I felt gave the story a really sad relevance.

In my opinion, not as amazing as Gone Girl, but an enjoyable read nonetheless.

Sophia’s #CBR5 Review #21: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone GirlNick Dunne and Amy Elliott Dunne are a couple in their thirties. Nick was raised in a small town in Missouri and Amy was raised in New York, a cherished only child. The couple had moved from New York City back to Nick’s hometown two years before when both of them lost their jobs and Nick’s mom got sick. The book starts out the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary when Amy suddenly and mysteriously disappears. The book switches perspective between Nick during the present and Amy in the past through diary entries.

This book was better than I was expecting. The writing was incredibly good, combining the suspense of a missing person’s case, the emotional roller coaster of the collapse of a marriage, and the in-depth psychology of all of the characters. I stopped reading it one night because I had to finish some stuff up for work. But after about an hour, I just picked it back up again. I couldn’t let it go. Before I read Gone Girl, I wasn’t planning on reading any more of Flynn once I got through what I considered to be her most “famous” novel, but now I think I’ll end up reading all of her books.

Click here to read my review in full.

loulamac’s #CBR5 review #18: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

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I finished this book last week, and have been stalling writing the review because I didn’t know what to say about it. Everyone is so mad about it, but while I can see it’s well written and a good story, it didn’t blow my socks off. I’m probably going to incur the wrath of all the Flynn-ites out there, but the combination of thoroughly self-absorbed, unlikeable characters and the strangely smug and knowing voice of the author leaching into the first person narrative was just too much for me. So it’s a good book, but not deserving of the sometimes hysterical praise that has been heaped upon it.

Nick and Amy Dunne live in Missouri, refugees from recession-hit New York. They’ve relocated to Nick’s home town as his mother is dying of cancer. Not to look after her mind you, they’re both far too up their own arses for that. The book opens on the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary, and Amy promptly goes missing, presumed kidnapped and/or murdered. The aforementioned first-person narrative shifts between Nick and Amy, as he charts the progress of the investigation into her disappearance, and she (through her diary) reveals the back story of their first meeting, courtship and marriage. As evidence stacks against Nick, and Amy’s words provide very different interpretations of their life together from his own, it becomes clear that neither of them is telling the whole truth.

*CLICHÉ ALERT* Nick is a working class boy, movie-star handsome with a wise-cracking emotionally unstable twin sister who he is incredibly close to. Amy is a wealthy, spoilt only child, beautiful and cold. I don’t think I’m giving much of the game away when I say that the only thing they seem to have in common is that they are both hateful people. The first two-thirds of the book are reasonably gripping, and rattle along. Once the (predictable) twist is revealed, the story and writer seem to run out of steam. The remaining plot developments are lazy and the ending contrived. I read a lot and have pretty high standards, so often find myself wasting time on unutterable rubbish. Gone Girl really isn’t that. I know I should like it, I know it’s not badly written, I know it’s a good ‘thriller’, but it all left a bad taste in my mouth.

Kash’s #CBR5 Review #13: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

As I make my way through the Gillian Flynn catalogue, I can concede this piece is not nearly as disturbing as her first foray, Sharp Objects. Although immeasurably dark, this one doesn’t leave you with a sickening feeling in the pit of your stomach.

Libby Day, the disturbed semi-adult leading lady fumbles along through her life. With no job or sense of purpose, she lives off of a fund compiled by charitable donations after three members of her family were murdered when she was seven years old. Her remaining brother in prison, after her testimony helped convict him, and her deadbeat dad living in the wind.

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narfna’s #CBR5 Review #31: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

8442457Gonna keep this short, since everybody and their mother’s first cousin twice removed has already reviewed this (and also because if I say too much, I’d be spoiling it, and this is a book whose enjoyment is predicated on not knowing what’s coming). I waited on my library’s hold list for almost six months for this book, and I have to say, I’m kind of disappointed.

On the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy Dunne disappears, leaving her husband Nick the prime suspect in her disappearance, soon to be considered murder. But that’s only the tip of the super fucked up iceberg. The story is told through the POVs of Nick and Amy, both in the present and in flashbacks, and both of them are highly unreliable narrators (understatement of the year). It’s a mystery of many layers. As the characters try to figure out what’s happened to Amy, we as readers have to also determine what (if anything) we can trust as correct info from Nick and Amy, or if there might be something missing from the narrative.

Honestly, in terms of technical achievement, this book probably deserves five stars. At the very least, four. Gillian Flynn’s brain is ridiculous. The way she structures her sentences, with cutting precision. The intricate plotting. The dense psychological character work. How both of those last two things dance around one another in ways both unexpected, yet strangely obvious after the fact (because it was the only way things could go, really). It’s kind of a masterpiece.

However — and this is a big however — it also made me want to stab myself in the eyeball from despair over how despicable the human race is. There’s nobody to root for here. So even if I might even say that this book has a perfect ending, an incredibly satisfying piece of closure to a wonderfully crafted book, I can also simultaneously say that it’s not really for me. I’m feeling a lot more generous with it right now than I did at the time, enough maybe even to up it to four stars, but I’m leaving it at three for now because I remember how awful I felt after finishing it.

If you understand this reference, we should probably be best friends.

Lady Cordelia #CBR5 Review #26: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

UnknownThis was my second Gillian Flynn novel after devouring Gone Girl about a month ago.  While this story didn’t capture me quite as strongly, it was still a fantastic read.  Tightly plotted, great characters and a pervasive sense of dread throughout.

Camille Preaker is a junior reporter for a Chicago newspaper who is sent back to her small hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri to report on the kidnapping and murder of two young girls.  Though Camille still has family there, she hasn’t visited in years.  Her mother, Adora Crellin is the town’s preeminent business owner but is a strange and distant woman.  Staying in her family home is tough on Camille, dealing with her mother’s idiosyncrasies and having to face the unresolved issues of her own sister’s death from years before, which are surfaced by the deaths of the two girls.  Camille also gets to know her own, much younger half sister Amma for the first time. This all unfolds in the first couple of chapters of the novel, and the story simply does not let up.

Flynn perfectly captures a sense of dread in the small town – the feeling that people’s lives, particularly those of the women, are prescribed for them while in high school.  The same spiteful gossip is repeated, expectations set and inevitably met and that no one is allowed to buck the social order established in childhood.  Both the poor and wealthy alike are trapped.  Camille has physically distanced herself from this world, but is soon sucked back in by her ongoing relationship with her mother and the things remembered of her from her past.

I think the sense of creeping dread that this novel gave me was more from the depiction of the small town rather than the horrific murders of the two children.   Flynn does a wonderful job of leading you slowly into the tar-pit of history that Camille soon becomes trapped by.  The plot does not rely on a huge reveal to shock, but more unravels the story towards its inevitable conclusion.

A great read that made me incredibly thankful for the anonymity of living in a big city.

Shaman’s Cannonball Read #CBR5 review #9: Gone girl by Gillian Flynn

Rarely does a book leave me so ambivalent as to whether I liked it or not. Sure, I kept turning the pages to find out what happens next; sure, I thought it was well-written; sure, the story was original. But. There is a but. Let’s start from the beginning.

Gone girl is the story of a married couple, Nick and Amy, whose love story started as most love stories do: everything was great, everything clicked, and everything was magical (especially against a New York background). But then Nick and Amy get married and move to Missouri to look after Nick’s dying mother. Things start falling apart. And then things turn ugly. Amy suddenly goes missing and everyone seems to think Nick killed her. The evidence suggests that these suspicions might be true.

This is a story narrated by both Nick and Amy. Nick gets a chapter, then Amy gets hers, and so on. Nick tells his side of the story as it unfolds, whereas we get to read about Amy through her diary pages, which she wrote before she went missing. Immediately we are presented with two very different sides to the same story. Both two halves of this couple are hard to like: Nick is carrying a lot of hatred and anger, and you know he’s hiding something. Amy is just irritating. I wasn’t rooting for either one of them. And that was the ”but” I mentioned earlier.

Perhaps it was Flynn’s intention to create such unsympathetic characters. In fact, I am pretty sure it was. Yet, as I was reading the book, I felt repulsed by them. It was kind of like looking at a car accident. You know it’s nasty, but you can’t help rubbernecking. I suppose it is human nature, this morbid curiosity: to try and find out what goes on in the mind of seriously disturbed people. So, despite my repulsion, I have to hand it to Flynn for creating such believably sick people. No matter how twisted the situation she described, I never doubted it could happen.

The fact that I found most characters in the book revolting, with no redeeming features to speak of, stopped me from giving this book a better score. Maybe that’s not being an objective critic, but I never claimed to be one. I like some redemption in my books. A glimpse of hope. A happy ending. But then again, I can appreciate the dark humour (it’s not funny but it is amusing, in a crazy way) that is lying under the surface of this book. So I’ll just say: read it. Make up your own mind. Because, even if you hate the characters, their portrayal, the story and the writing will make it worth your while.

iamnothamlet’s #CBR5 Review #15: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Cannonball 15This is a terrible book and no one should ever read it. How’s that for a review?

You want more? Fine. Sharp Objects is a formless blob of a story that fails as both a mystery and as a thriller, and it’s unlikable protagonist is such a milquetoast nothing of a personality that she renders the reader unable to care whether the murders at the heart of the novel are ever solved, or really if any of the characters lives or dies. Oh, and I’m fairly certain that either the author of this book is a woman who hates women, or is at the very least so inarticulate that she brings about that impression through her own fault.

Camille Preaker is a third-rate reporter at the fourth-largest paper in Chicago. When two children are murdered in similar fashion in her rural home town, her editor sends her home to stay with her mother and uncover the story.

Though Camille gets close to the main police detective, her reporting and her investigation are lifeless and basically irrelevant to the plot. Flynn is much more interested in exploring the family dynamics of Camille’s former home, where her distant mother is still mourning Camille’s long-dead sister and over-mothering the child she had to replace it.

Sharp Objects fails to construct an interesting or clever mystery, never setting up enough reasonable alternatives to make the reader genuinely curious and eager to continue reading. Camille is also problematic, because her submissive, retreating personality makes her unlikely to take action. Most of the novel’s major reveals come about because of what is done to Camille, not by her.

The family and small-town dynamics are explored in some depth, but these are just not as interesting as Flynn thinks they are. The dialogue given to secondary characters is laughably simplistic, rendering cliched characters all the more unrealistic.

Sharp Objects is a dull novel, utterly devoid of suspense and intrigue.

 

 

ABR’s #CBR5 Review #5: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

sharp-objectsI was one of the few people who read Gillian Flynn’s novel Gone Girl and didn’t love it. Well, that’s not quite true. I loved the novel until page 412 and then …. seriously?

But I liked it enough to want to read more Gillian Flynn. So I’m starting with her first novel, Sharp Objects.

The main character of Sharp Objects is Camille Preaker, a fledgling reporter at a Chicago newspaper. When two children are murdered in her hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri, Camille is asked to report the story. Seeing a chance to prove her mettle and visit her mother, step father and half-sister, Camille reluctantly agrees.

Once home she soon remembers the things she disliked most about her hometown – the cliques, the bars, the drunks, the sexuality and the violence often went with it. While her hometown is dysfunctional, her home is even more so. Her mother Adora is detached with Camille and infantilizes her daughter Amma, a 13-year-old bully who terrorizes the town and manipulates their mother.

Bit by bit, the crimes are investigated and Camille’s back story is revealed. She is an alcoholic and a cutter, and when she starts to see similarities between the dead girls, her bully half-sister and herself, she is tempted to relapse.

It’s hard to like Camille. She is flawed, both troubled and troubling. She doesn’t seem capable of making any good decisions. Just about the only redeeming thing about her is that she’s trying to redeem herself.

Although the novel is suspenseful, the denouement isn’t much of a surprise, partly because at some point in the novel every character seems capable of the crimes. But what elevates the story over an episode of “Law and Order” or “CSI” is Flynn’s writing. It reminds me of Stephen King – macabre, suspenseful and disquieting. While she imbues some graphic passages with an eerie beauty, she doesn’t shy away from overt sexuality and violence. Much of the novel takes place in Missouri (where Flynn grew up) and as a Midwesterner I can attest that her depiction of the Midwestern small town is spot on. Embarrassingly so. Because of that, I found some humor in the book. But mostly it is dark and chilling.

Personally I find books like Sharp Objects, (I’m thinking Carrie or The Lovely Bones or even The Road) terrifying because the monsters aren’t supernatural. We are the monsters.