2012 Crown Publishers
Rating: 4.75/5 (Terrific!)
ARC - Due for release on June 5, 2012
ARC - Due for release on June 5, 2012
I waited for the police first in the kitchen, but the acrid smell of the burnt teakettle was curling up in the back of my throat, underscoring my need to retch, so I drifted out on the front porch, sat on the top stair, and willed myself to be calm. I kept trying Amy’s cell, and it kept going to voice mail, that quick-clip cadence swearing she’d phone right back. Amy always phoned right back. It had been three hours, and I’d left five messages, and Amy had not phoned back.
I didn’t expect her to. I’d tell the police: Amy would never have left the house with the teakettle on. Or the door open. Or anything waiting to be ironed. The woman got shit done, and she was not one to abandon a project (say, her fixer-upper husband, for instance), even if she decided she didn’t like it. She’d made a grim figure on the Fiji beach during our two-week honeymoon, battling her way through a million mystical pages of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, casting pissy glances at me as I devoured thriller after thriller. Since our move back to Missouri, the loss of her job, her life had revolved (devolved?) around the completion of endless tiny, inconsequential projects. The dress would have been ironed.
New York Times bestselling author Gillian Flynn’s terrifying masterpiece of a marriage gone wrong will leave you breathless. On the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne’s clever and beautiful wife, Amy, disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi. Under pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy serves up an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. But even though Nick might be weak and he might be bitter—is he really a killer?
With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that proves she is not only at the peak of her powers but also one of the hottest writers around.
“The real deal; a sharp, acerbic, and compelling storyteller with a knack for the macabre.” ~ Stephen King
Wow!! I could not put this book down! 415 pages (uncorrected ARC) of riveting dialogue and masterful plotting and it simply wasn’t long enough. I had just finished Mo Hayder’s amazing thriller, Gone, and decided to keep the momentum going and dove straight back into another gripping mystery. As I read, I kept telling my husband, “You have to read this as soon as I finish! It’s so good!”
I’ve been aware of Gillian Flynn’s novels, but until the ARC landed in my lap (and given Joy’s high praise to nudge me to read it sooner than later), I’d never felt compelled to give her books a try. Apparently, I’ve been missing out on an amazing writer. Stephen King wrote the following praise for Flynn’s earlier thriller, Sharp Objects:
To say this is a terrific debut novel is really too mild. I haven’t read such a relentlessly creepy family saga since John Farris’s All Heads Turn When the Hunt Goes By, and that was thirty years ago, give or take. Sharp Objects isn’t one of those scare-and-retreat books; its effect is cumulative. I found myself dreading the last thirty pages or so but was helpless to stop turning them. Then, after the lights were out, the story just stayed there in my head, coiled and hissing, like a snake in a cave. An admirably nasty piece of work, elevated by sharp writing and sharper insights.
This is one of those books that is almost impossible to discuss without giving away any spoilers. Remember when you watched The Sixth Sense, but couldn’t discuss it with anyone who hadn’t seen the film? Or when you’d read Dennis Lehane’s Shutter Island and wanted to find someone, anyone, to talk to, comparing notes about its amazing dénouement? Well, this is another story with which I’ll struggle when I attempt to hand-sell copies when it hits the shelves on June 5th. (And, no, I do not believe I’ve given anything away by citing those two examples.)
Since I can’t really discuss the plot in depth, how about I share a few passages?
Do not blame me for this particular grievance, Amy. The Missouri Grievance. Blame the economy, blame bad luck, blame my parents, blame your parents, blame the Internet, blame people who use the Internet. I used to be a writer. I was a writer who wrote about TV and movies and books. Back when people read things on paper, back when anyone cared about what I thought. I’d arrived in New York in the late ‘90s, the last gasp of the glory days, although no one knew it then. New York was packed with writers, real writers, because there were magazines, real magazines, loads of them. This was back when the Internet was still some exotic pet kept in the corner of the publishing world—throw some kibble at it, watch it dance on its little leash, oh quite cute, it definitely won’t kill us in the night. Think about it: a time when newly graduated college kids could come to New York and get paid to write. We had no clue that we were embarking on careers that would vanish within a decade.I had a job for eleven years and then I didn’t, it was that fast. All around the country, magazines began shuttering, succumbing to a sudden infection brought on by the busted economy. Writers (my kind of writers: aspiring novelists, ruminative thinkers, people whose brains didn’t work quick enough to blog or link or tweet, basically old, stubborn blowhards) were through. We were like women’s hat makers or buggy-whip manufacturers: Our time was done.
And then suddenly there was a date [for a housewarming], and the date was yesterday, and Dunne family and friends were shaking off the October drizzle from umbrellas and carefully, conscientiously wiping their feet on the floor mat Maureen had brought for us that morning. The rug says: All Are Friends Who Enter Here. It is from Costco. I have learned about bulk shopping in my four weeks as a Mississippi River resident. Republicans go to Sam’s Club, Democrats go to Costco. But everyone buys bulk because—unlike Manhattanites—they all have space to store twenty-four jars of sweet pickles. And—unlike Manhattanites—they all have uses for twenty-four jars of sweet pickles. (No gathering is complete without a lazy Susan full of pickles and Spanish olives right from the jar. And a salt lick.)I set the scene: It is one of those big-smelling days, when people bring the outdoors in with them, the scent of rain on their sleeves, in their hair. The older women—Maureen’s friends—present tinfoiled food items in plastic, dishwasher-safe containers they will ask to be returned. And ask and ask. I know, now that I am supposed to wash out the containers and drop each of them back by their proper homes—a Ziploc carpool—but when I first came here, I was unaware of the protocol. I dutifully recycled all the plastic containers, and so I had to go buy all new ones. Maureen’s best friend, Vicky, immediately noticed her container was brand-new, store-bought, an imposter, and when I explained my confusion, she widened her eyes in amazement: So that’s how they do it in New York.
Joy (of Thoughts of Joy) wrote:
WOO HOO! This is my first "best read" of the year!...Starting from the beginning, I was very intrigued. I wanted to know more and more and more. Once I reached close to the middle of the book, I couldn't put it down. Oh that was absolute heaven for me, as I don't get that feeling as often as I would like. The suspense and twists that were shared through the entries of Nick and Amy were so captivating that I had to keep reading. I loved discovering more about their warped, abnormal thoughts. That sounds a bit odd on my part, but their distorted views really kept me glued to their story.
You can be sure that Sharp Objects and Dark Places have been added to my summer reading list. As a matter of fact, I have a trip coming up in a couple of weeks and need something that will hold my attention on a few flights. Any recommendations as to which of these two to read first?
Final Thoughts: This was so entertaining that I’m actually considering the audio version sometime in the not so distant future. I’m adding Gillian Flynn to my list of favorite authors. Thank goodness she has a backlist!
The following interview was posted on Shelf Awareness, May 2012:
Gillian Flynn: Disturbing in a Most Unladylike Way
Gillian Flynn is the author of the bestselling Dark Places, which was a New Yorker Reviewers' Favorite, a Weekend Today Top Summer Read, a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2009 and a Chicago Tribune Favorite Fiction choice; and the Dagger Award-winning Sharp Objects, which was an Edgar nominee for Best First novel, a BookSense pick and a Barnes & Noble Discover selection. Her work has been published in 28 countries. She lives in Chicago with her husband and son.
Gone Girl has at its heart a very dark portrait of a marriage. Where did you get the inspiration for this novel?
Hmm... Is it strange to say my husband? Probably, but I will anyway. My lovely, charming, sweet husband and I have been married for almost five years, and I was interested in delving into what an insane enterprise the whole thing can be. How potentially fraught. Because in some ways, marriage is a bit of a con. You present your best self, or even your third or fifth best self, to this person you love during those early years of courtship, but that's not actually the genuine you. It's the you that you'd really, really like to be but aren't. So you basically trick the person you love into marrying you, and then, after a while, the real you--the flawed, strange person you had hoped was perhaps "fixed" by this love--begins to surface. The potential for disaster is great. In the best case, you two are both revealed to be frauds at about the same level, and you love each other even more because of your "idiosyncrasies." (Isn't that the marital euphemism for "Holy smokes, my spouse is crazy"?) But the best-case scenario doesn't hold for every couple. What happens if the real people underneath the golden facades are really, really not meant to be together? What happens if they complete each other in the nastiest possible way?
What were the particular challenges you faced writing such a psychologically twisty story with so many curves and switchbacks? Did you ever find yourself caught up in the deceits of your characters?
Who was telling what lie when, and to whom, and why? I'm a big fan of unreliable narrators, because we are all unreliable narrators of our own self-mythologies. I liked playing with that idea here, and then adding intentional deceits and twists and turns. So it got complicated. I'm an obsessive maker of lists, notes, queries, timelines, all of which I write out longhand in a rather spidery, cramped style of handwriting. Then, because I am a slob and have no filing system, I tape all those random note cards and scraps of legal paper willy-nilly to the wall of my office: reminders of where I am in the story, or scenes I want to revisit, or facts I need to check, or inconsistencies I need to correct. By the end of writing Gone Girl, I had dozens of scraps of paper fluttering from my walls with scrawled notes that said things like: "But what about the Festival?! Boney MORONIE??? Where was Nick at 9 AM then? Mom dead? Crepes!" My office looked like the lair of a serial killer. A really weird serial killer.
Your characters, especially your female characters, are interesting, complicated, and richly three-dimensional, but they aren't always likeable. Do you consider it risky in some sense to present these characters to your readers?
I think likeability is overrated. You want your roommate to be likeable, you want your coworker to be likeable, you want your dog to be likeable. I don't necessarily want characters to be likeable. Likeable doesn't necessarily mean interesting. In fact, I'd argue that we spend more time obsessing over people we don't like (Why did she say that? Why would he act that way? What is wrong with her?) than people we do like, and for me that's what makes a novel work: you want to figure out the characters. A character who acts appropriately, fairly and kindly? I'm probably not going to spend that much time trying to figure that person out: he or she is good. Done. A character that is conniving, vindictive, cowardly, argumentative, selfish? I want to figure out what happened to that person, and what will happen. I suppose it goes back to one's basic motive for reading. I don't read in order to root for a character--personally, I'm not big on the hero narrative. I read because I like to poke around in human psyches. So that's what drives my writing. I should also add that I have a serious soft spot for underdogs, malcontents, freaks, jackasses and psychos, so I find all my unlikeable characters perversely likeable.
Do you feel your work fits into a genre or subgenre? If so, which one?
I'm sure it must fit somewhere but I always struggle with an actual label. Midwest gothic noir? Midwest because I'm obsessed with the midsection of the country. I grew up in Missouri, within walking distance of Kansas, and I truly think they are two of the most interesting places around, historically. Gothic, because my novels have that sense of slightly skewed reality, and are littered with desolate set pieces (Sharp Objects' deadly fairytale of a forest; Dark Places' ruined bank, underground home to the Kill Club; Gone Girl's abandoned mega-mall, overtaken by tribes of squatters). Noir because my books are always peopled with troubled, dangerously striving souls.
On a related note, do you find there are different expectations of and responses to women writing dark, edgy fiction than there are for men?
I like to think that's becoming less and less of an issue, now that so many authors of great, dark stories happen to be women. I can't change my gender--female-- and I can't change the way I look, which is decidedly unthreatening (Comment I most often hear at any book event: "But you look so sweeeet!"). However, I can promise you, if you pick up one of my books, I will disturb you in a most unladylike way. --Debra Ginsberg
Go here to read Debra Ginsberg’s excellent review of Gone Girl.