GILLIAN FLYNN: GONE GIRL, SHARP OBJECTS AND DARK PLACES- BOOK REVIEWS

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Gone Girl– I watched the movie a while ago, my expectations high due to the director, David Fincher, and his previous films like Fight Club, Seven and Zodiac.

However, like I mentioned in that review, I wasn’t really sure what to make of the film. I wasn’t even sure if I liked it, and I was pretty confused about what it was trying to say and the characters in the film. I still wouldn’t say it was a bad film…it just fell kind of flat for me.

In the comments of that review I did, someone commented and said that the film might of been better for me if I had read the book by Gillian Flynn (who also adapted the screenplay), and said that the movie for them had really brought the book to life.

So- a couple of weeks ago I bought Gone Girl, and read it cover to cover in about two days. I definitely enjoyed it more than the film, that’s for sure, and I felt like I had a better understanding of the characters. Naturally, of course, films don’t have an endless amount of time to build character background stories, especially not in the same way a book does, but I felt like I had a completely diffrent view to Amy, the main character, when reading the book.

I really enjoyed Flynn’s style of writing and I really felt that the characters were written and developed a lot better than they had been in the film. Suddenly I felt like I could relate to Amy in a way, or at least in some respects, understand where she was coming from. Having grown up with children’s book authors as her parents, who created a book series called ‘Amazing Amy’ it really put into perspective how hard that must have been for Amy to deal with.

Amy talks about how, “it’s a very difficult era in which to be a person, just a real, actual person, instead of a collection of personality traits selected from an endless Automat of characters,” and overall Amy was a really complex yet understandable character. What she was saying was actually speaking some truth to me. I particularity loved the part about being ‘A cool girl.’ You know those moments where the book you’re reading is speaking to you so much you start violently nodding your head and slapping the page, saying “exactly!” And ” Amen” out loud….just me? Well that’s what I was doing reading the part where Amy talks about the myth of the ‘cool girl’ and how hypocritical and fake it all really is,

I waited patiently – years – for the pendulum to swing the other way, for men to start reading Jane Austen, learn how to knit, pretend to love cosmos, organize scrapbook parties and make out with each other while we  leer. And then we’d say, Yeah, he’s a Cool Guy.Amy Dunne, Gone Girl. 

Mostly I felt the book just made me understand more why Amy did what she did. After watching the film, I said that I felt that Amy was like a character simply to warn men, ‘look how crazy women can be! even the pretty ones! watch out!’ and I felt that the film focused more on Nick and his story. In the book, I found out about Amy and her feelings, “It had gotten to the point where it seemed like nothing matters, because I’m not a real person and neither is anyone else. I would have done anything to feel real again,” and yes, she still does do some crazy things in the book but at least this time I had a better understanding of why she did them.

However, I do have one thing to say about both the book and the film. For me, both the film and book’s ending were really…disappointing. That’s all I really have to say about it, it just fell flat. It just felt like it was missing something.

But overall I really did enjoy Gone Girl, a lot better than the film, and I really enjoyed Flynn’s writing. Strong (and crazy) characters are my favorite and I felt she created the characters in the book brilliantly.

“I felt a queasy mixture of relief and horror: when you finally stop an itch and realize it’s because you’ve ripped a hole in your skin.”Amy Dunne, Gone Girl. 

As I am rather an obsessive person, because I liked Gone Girl and Flynn’s writing I decided to get her other books too, Sharp Objects and Dark Places. 

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I read Sharp Objects first, about a reporter who has to go back to her hometown to write about a murder and a disappearance of two young girls.

 “I ached once, hard, like a period typed at the end of a sentence.”

I had not read anything about Sharp Objects before reading it. All I knew about it was that it was written by Flynn, and sometimes I feel like that is the best way to go into a film or a book, with no real expectations on what it’s going to be about.

I really enjoyed Sharp Objects. I actually liked it better than Gone Girl, and I read it in about four hours almost straight through. Once again, I thought Flynn’s character development was really effective. The main character, Camilla, felt like a real person, and I liked her and sympathized with her from the beginning.  Camilla is a very complex and dark character, in fact all of the characters in the book were dark and complex in some ways, and I really enjoyed almost piecing together the mystery just as Camilla did.

Sharp Objects was disturbing, raw and haunting. But it was also quite touching, and not all of the characters were completely dark and sick, even though at times, that’s indeed what it felt like.

It’s really Flynn’s dialogue I like the most, the internal dialogue spoken by the characters that reveals more about them and how they look at the world. But she doesn’t just write things that reflect them, she almost asks indirect questions to the reader, or at least I really found myself considering the things the characters were thinking about.

“Sometimes I think illness sits inside every woman, waiting for the right moment to bloom. I have known so  many sick women all my life. Women with chronic pain, with ever-gestating diseases. Women with conditions. Men, sure, they have bone snaps, they have backaches, they have a surgery or two, yank out a tonsil, insert a shiny plastic hip. Women get consumed.”Camilla Preaker- Sharp Objects.

Finally, I read Dark Places. Once again, a book with a dark subject matter and troubled characters, switching back and forth between Lily Day’s life in the present day, and the day in when her whole family was murdered back in the 1980’s.

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“The truly frightening flaw in humanity is our capacity for cruelty – we all have it.”

Out of the three books I read of Flynn’s, Dark Places was my least favorite. Not to say I didn’t enjoy the story or the characters, because I did. Once again she managed to created incredibly troubled characters that felt alive and in ways relatable. All her characters in every one of her books felt like real people, unique and incredibly messed up, but real…alive. 

For me, Dark Places dragged on a bit too long for my taste. I felt like not a lot was happening when it should have been or could have been. I kept waiting for things to happen with the brother and the accused murderer, Ben Day, but nothing really did.

Despite this, I felt that the ending was really clever and unexpected, and the themes of the satanism and the fear surrounding it that was rife in America in the 80’s, along with poverty and rural America was really interesting to read about.

Perhaps I’m just a little inpatient, I do find it hard to read long books (I have so many I have yet to read but keep putting them off due to their length) and maybe if you are someone that enjoys a book that takes a while to finish, Dark Places might be a diffrent experience for you.

Overall, I really like Flynn as a writer and I will definitely be on the look out for future books and/or films written by her in the future. I’m really glad I read Gone Girl and Sharp Objects is going to go on my favorite books list, and will probably be a book I will read again just because the characters are so real and alive.
Flynn’s writing is incredibly evoking, visceral and full of great dark imagery.

My Ratings: Gone Girl- 8/10, Sharp Objects- 9/10, Dark Places- 7/10.

“How do you keep safe when your whole day is as wide and empty as the sky?”

 

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