Sharp. Edgy. Different. Gillian Flynn’s work has been described using these words, and many others. Her skill at piecing a story together, often using co-existing but not immediately evident threads, is unique and refreshing. It’s also not for everyone, as can be evidenced by the polarizing critical reviews. You either love her work, or hate it. I happen to love it.
My reviews of the individual titles are below.
conveying it effectively to words. All writers aim to do this, but very few succeed in the way she did. She also adequately balanced significant detail in her characters, without feeling like they were being handed to us. Despite understanding who each character was, the story never became predictable.
The first half of the book was stunning. Building up to the second half, even though Nick is our narrator, we are still not sure what happened to Amy, and what his role in it was, or was not. That’s a difficult thing to sell, but it was done well.
The second half (which I won’t spoil) almost felt like a different book altogether. Where the setup of the book had a dark, but steady undertone, this felt more like a rollercoaster ride. I still don’t know how I feel about the big twist here, but I do understand why Flynn ended the book the way she did. While not exactly satisfying, it makes sense in that it was true to the nature of the characters.
Overall, this was a book that kept me reading, and guessing, until the end. For that, and the colorful writing, I would definitely recommend it to others. 4 stars.
As with her other two books, Dark Places and Gone Girl, I’m struck with Flynn’s ability to create an utterly and completely engaging story, while presenting not a single sympathetic character. This makes it challenging to build the proper stakes (I didn’t care what did or did not happen to Camille, or how her coming home impacted her), however this was the first of Flynn’s books where I really felt like it didn’t take a lot away from the story.
Anyone who has ever lived/grown up in a small town can relate to Wind Gap. Flynn knows how to create the perfect small town, midwest backdrop, though her view on it is decidely and resoundly cynical at best. I’ve read in interviews that this is not what her own experiences have been, which surprises me, as she writes with the conviction of one who knows exactly the feelings she wants to emote.
The mystery that carries the story is well told, and despite figuring out early-on what at least part of the big reveal would be, it did not take away at all from the page-turning aspect of the book. And while her characters are not relatable, they are neverthless fully-fleshed and incredibly rich… so much so that I was invested in their futures, which I could not say about the characters in Dark Places or Gone Girl. Interesting to me that it is her first novel that hits on all the right points. 5 stars.
I first started reading Flynn with Gone Girl. It was not her characters that hooked me, but her turn-by-turn storytelling and her knack for understanding human behavior. I point this out because, much like Gone Girl, Dark Places stars a case of mostly unlikeable characters. This would not be a problem if they were relatable, or even sympathetic. Libby had few redeeming qualities (if any), and Ben, while I believe readers *should* feel some empathy for him given the situation he was put into for so many years, is equally hard to connect with. The secondary cast is similar, with the sole exception of Libby’s friend from the Kill Club. I normally never “root for” an unlikely romance like that, but I was hoping his influence might make her more sympathetic to readers, and this did not happen.
Having said that… I found that the story kept me fully engaged, start to finish. The flashback storytelling was done with expert finesse, and Flynn was able to keep both the past and present in perfect timing, revealing both at a good pace as we neared the climax. Although there are hints to the answer earlier in the book, I did not pick up on them at all, and so I was utterly shocked at the ending reveal… which is a testament to her storytelling. The other thing Flynn does exceptionally well is create a bleak but vivid backdrop for all her stories, and the depressive midwest in this one was a character unto itself.
Overall, I really enjoyed the book, despite my lack of character connection. 4 stars.
Overall Collection Rating: 4.5 Stars