Dark Places – Gillian Flynn
It ‘tis the season of goodwill or as I like to call it Reading Season (totally a thing). The Christmas and New Year period is the perfect time to catch up on a few books or begin reading the ones you received for Christmas.
Now Christmas Day and Boxing Day have been and gone I feel it’s acceptable to review Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places (this is probably the least Christmassy book you could imagine).
Dark Places is the last of Flynn’s books I have not read and in my opinion is the most macabre and grisly of them all books.
Libby Day was only seven years old when her two sisters and mother were killed. Her brother was convicted of their murders but twenty years on Libby is still searching for answers. As she finally pieces together the puzzle she realises every member of her family had something to hide. Thanks to Lyle and a bunch of people who are obsessed with the murders she slowly works out what really happened on that fateful night.
The book opens with Libby selling her dead family’s belongings to fanatics about the case. Never having worked a day in her life, Libby struggles to come to terms with her life and her family’s brutal deaths. Flynn creates such a twisted opening that you can’t believe the novel can get more cruel and sick (a heads up, it does).
Flitting between the day of the murder and the present Flynn creates a novel which you cannot put down and puts many people in the frame for murder: Ben Day, Libby’s brother and apparent Satan worshiper, has been convicted of the three murders but without conclusive evidence. There’s Diondra, Ben’s pregnant girlfriend and all round psycho. And Runner, Libby and Ben’s alcoholic and abusive father who has a violent relationship with their mother. And then there’s a hired hit man…
I was left guessing until the end who the culprit was and was quite shocked when it was all revealed.
My only qualm about the novel was the apparent connection between rock music and death. Being a heavy metal fan I think I can speak for most people when I say that never has Slipknot or Korn etc made me what to commit murder.
After that little rant, I would recommend Dark Places and can’t wait to see if another book is in the pipeline for Flynn.
NW – Zadie Smith
I was made to read White Teeth at uni, in fact it was the very last book on my reading list and I fell in love with it. It was easily one of the best books I had read on the course and in general life.
NW screamed out to me on a bookshelf in Foyles. I bought it on Super Thursday and have only now got round to reading it.
In the same vein as White Teeth, NW follows the lives of four individuals in London. First we meet Leah a thirty-something woman who partied hard in her youth but went to university and thought this would lead to a better life than her counterparts. While she has succeeded in many areas, she feels flat and unfulfilled. Her French husband Michel loves her dearly and longs for a child. Smith introduces the issue childless women are faced with – ‘is there something wrong with me because I don’t want children’?
Next, we meet Nathan, the character who I loved the most. A former drug addict, he’s trying to get his life back on track but ironically doing the right thing ends in tragedy.
Natalie formerly known as Keisha is Leah’s friend. She studies hard and trains to be a lawyer but she’s torn between her new life as a lawyer and her old ties with her friend Felix.
Smith has a way of really capturing people’s emotions, speech and general actions. She really understands people from all walks of life in a way which I don’t think any writer of our generation does.
While I did enjoy NW I didn’t feel it was as good as White Teeth, a book I would happily read over and over. That said this is an excellent book which portrays all walks of modern life.
Sharp Objects – Gillian Flynn
Gone Girl was just one of those books that everyone in the world was reading (and still reading if the tube is anything to go by). I along with millions of others loved the film and the book and was dying to read Gillian Flynn’s other titles just to make sure she wasn’t a one trick pony (she isn’t).
Sharp Objects tells the story of Camille Preaker a journalist who works in Chicago. Instructed by her boss to go back home to Wind Gap, she follows the story of the brutal murder of two young girls but instead she returns to face her own familial demons. And Camille soon discovers the murderers are closer to home than she ever realized.
Forced to stay with her mother and step-father as she covers the story, she is confronted with the step-sister she never really knew. Camille’s mother could easily be a Stepford Wife – seemingly perfect on the outside but if you chipped away a little she is a psychological nightmare full of malicious and horrific outbursts.
Her sister Amma is one of the most disturbing characters you could imagine, a little girl playing with dolls houses one minute and then saying she wishes she could be murdered whilst at the dinner table the next. I would even go so far to say that both of them were more mental than Amy in Gone Girl.
Brutal and honest this was the definition of a page-turner. Flynn has the ability to create harrowing and awful images that are almost too sickening to bear yet you wanted to carry on reading more. This is a must-read.
Landline – Rainbow Rowell
First off let me just say how retro is this cover? The colours are a sixties dream.
At work there is always a lot of buzz around Rainbow Rowell and with a name like that I was dying to read one of her books.
This novel is set around Christmas so as soon as December hit I thought it was an appropriate time to start reading it.
Georgie McCool’s marriage is in trouble. Perhaps it’s been in trouble for a longtime. She still loves Neal, Neal loves her and there’s been no catastrophe until now. Gerogie is a television writer and to get her show written and out on time she must work over Christmas in LA, trouble is she was due to spend Christmas with Neal, her children and his family in Omaha. Neal does the unprecedented and takes the children leaving Georgie – now blubbering wreck – behind.
Left all alone and forced to stay at her mother’s (the horror) she finds a way to communicate with Neal in the past, it’s not time travel exactly but it does involve a phone.
Over the course of a week we learn Georgie’s innermost thoughts and how her marriage has come to this. Neal’s absence makes her realize she cannot function without him and the same can be said for him.
I’ve made it sound like a bit of a rom-com but it’s a lot deeper than that. Rather than fluffing over problems in relationships this deals with it head on and wrings it dry. There were a few times where I was almost screaming for them to get back together but all in all this is a really enjoyable novel.
A great alternative Christmas book with a happy ending!