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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What I'm Reading: Gone Girl

Unless you are living under a rock, you know that Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn comes out today!  I was lucky enough to read it back in March as I was planning Flynn's visit here to the BPL.  

I knew right away that this book had something special. As I have mentioned in my past reviews of Flynn's first 2 novels (here and here) she is one of the current masters of psychological suspense in the tradition of such greats as Alfred Hitchcock, Patricia Highsmith, and Shirley Jackson.  For those unsure of what I mean by psychological suspense, here is how I  it for the forthcoming ARRT Popular Fiction Workbook (available in early 2013 on NoveList):
Psychological suspense refers to books which put an uneasy atmosphere at the forefront, producing a chill in the reader; however, as opposed to horror, the fear and anxiety comes from very real sources because the monsters in psychological suspense are flesh and blood individuals who are frighteningly real, not speculative. These are books filled with serial killers, stalkers, and evil masterminds. They play with the psyches of their victims and the reader. Tension in these novels builds, the atmosphere is nightmarish, the chills do not let up, and the plot resolutions are disturbing and unclear. These are fairly literary novels filled with darkness, plot twists, and obsession.
Flynn's new book stands as the perfect illustration of this definition.  Let me be clear here.  This book is suspenseful, but not in the traditional fast paced sense.  It is still highly literary, with a lot details that are necessary for the first 150 pages, but boy when that twist comes (and it is a big one) those details pay off.

I can't give you more than the set up though because it will ruin everything.

Nick and Amy are married.  They are going through a difficult time.  They both lost their jobs, and moved from NYC to rural Missouri, Nick's hometown, to help care for his ailing mother. But as the book opens it is their 5th anniversary.  Except, that day, Amy goes missing and Nick is the prime suspect.

The book is in three parts.  In part 1, the pov alternates between Nick in the present and Amy's diary.  After this first part, there is a huge twist.  The alternating povs continues throughout the novel.  It creates a great he said-she said banter as the suspense builds relentlessly in parts 2 and 3. 

The twists keep coming.  They are believable, but shocking.  This is an important point to make about the book.  There is no hero here.  Nick is an admittedly flawed narrator who does himself no favors.  Amy is...well I won't say...but she is not someone you would want to be friends with.   But for a book that is going to be mainstream, I was surprised by how dark and twisted it was.  Don't get me wrong, personally, I love that about it, but I have patrons who might be unnerved by it.  Again though, being unnerved is the entire point.

If you want to read a smart, thought provoking, dark look at a marriage gone terribly wrong, read Gone Girl.  It begins with a slow build, that pays off with a second half that left me up late turning the pages and gasping with surprise.

This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.

Three Words That Describe This Book: twisted, shifting points of view, uneasy atmosphere

Readalikes:  First, go to my review of Dark Places to see a lengthy discussion of Flynn readalike options.

But specifically, as I mentioned above, this book really reminded me of a Hitchcock movie.  Also Amy is the closest character I have seen to the creepy, planned evil of Highsmith's Ripley character.

I also think Gone Girl is similar to Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie suspense stories.  Both are slower paced than their genre mates, filled with details that pay off in the end, and have a literary style.  Click here to bring up my posts which mention Atkison.

Congrats to Flynn on an amazing book. And don't forget to sign up to meet her at the BPL on 7/11.

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