Tag Archives: novel

Review: Gone Girl

I read Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl nearly a month ago, but have taken my time in posting a review. Mostly, I just wanted to sort through my feelings about this novel before I committed anything to the digital page. At first I thought I didn’t like this novel, despite being completely unable to put it down. Then I thought I did like it, just not as much as everyone else seemed to. Finally,¬† I realized that this is a gripping thriller, but I hated the main characters to the point that I didn’t really care what happened to them, and rather felt they got what they deserved. Gone Girl

Gone Girl is the story of the disappearance of Amy Elliot Dunne, the wife of Nick Dunne. Flynn follows the narrative in two strands, with each chapter alternating between Nick and Amy as the narrator. Each chapter is headed with either a date or the number of days since Amy’s disappearance. The first section of the novel is comprised of the initial days after Amy’s disappearance as told from Nick’s point of view, and entries from Amy’s diary that span the years between their first meeting and the present.

The fast-paced opening chapters work well for the novel, as do the mysteries that pile deeper by the page. Nick admits that he’s a liar — even keeping a tally of the lies he tells the police in their investigation — but for the most part you don’t know which statements in particular were the lies, or why he told them. My disgust with the characters began to emerge at this point, but I was still undeniably hooked on the novel. I felt like I couldn’t stop reading, no matter what. When the truth behind Nick’s behavior is finally revealed, the picture shifts to include all this new information, but Flynn has many more revelations to come.

The major twist in the novel comes in the second section, and I have to say, though I guessed at part of it, I did not even begin to grasp the enormity of the situation. It was during this second part of Gone Girl that I decided I had no love left for any of the main characters, and realized that I was so turned off by them and their behavior that I didn’t really care if they lived, died, got sent to prison, or received any other consequence that might come to pass. Flynn is a strong writer and a fantastic storyteller, but I felt that she perhaps went a little too far in how grotesque she made the characters. Flawed is to be expected. Dark is acceptable. But under whatever nastiness is shown, there has to be something left for the reader to root for or to care about in their protagonist. I didn’t find that here, and instead felt I was left with only villains. Or perhaps that was Flynn’s point: evil only begets more evil, whether karmic or otherwise.

The novel, as I said, is a nail-biter. I read it pretty quickly, even though my pace slowed in the latter portions. As the mystery is wrapped up, Gone Girl transitions from the kidnapping/murder investigation to more of a spy-game feel, where hidden agendas, retaliation, and covert warfare drive the plot. You should know going into it that this novel is dark and twisted, and that there are no real happy endings — nor does anyone really deserve them. If you can overcome your revulsion to some of the characters’ major features, you might even like this novel more than I did. But then, I’ve always been one to hold a bit of a grudge.

Happy Reading!

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

Review: The Weird Sisters

I finished The Weird Sisters, by Eleanor Brown, several days ago, but I’ve been hesitating to write the review; I couldn’t really figure out what to say. Today, I decided my lack of strong feelings or opinions is my opinion: the book is fine, but certainly not something that has me jumping up and down. The Weird Sisters

The novel follows three sisters, each named after a Shakespearean heroine — Rosalind, Bianca, and Cordelia — who come home after their mother is diagnosed with cancer. Ostensibly, they’re home to help their parents while their mother is in treatment, but each sister has her own personal catastrophe sending them running for the sanctuary of their childhood home. Rosalind’s fianc√© has moved to England to pursue a career at Oxford, leaving Rose wondering whether she should still be planning a wedding or not. Bianca has been fired from her job in New York after her employers discover she has been embezzling. Cordelia, after living a nomadic lifestyle for years, is pregnant, with no desire to ever see the father again.

The novel traces each sister’s path home, then steps back and observes the tumult of their reunion. Each sister keeps her reasons secret for much of the novel, until they burst out of each woman one way or another. While I can’t say much else for the novel, I can say this: the sisters’ interactions and relationships with one another are occasionally overblown, but for the most part ring astoundingly true. I knew both the unconditional love as well as the all-encompassing rage sibling have the uncanny ability to elicit from one another. While many other relationships in the novel seemed one-note, Brown depicted the ups and downs of family dynamics with honesty and zest.

Brown’s novel is not quite comedic nor dramatic. It heavily references Shakespeare, but neither in a way that feels educational nor makes informed readers feel “in the know”. I was hoping for more in this department, but the references are mostly discussion of the characters for which the sisters are named, as well as their professorial father’s tendency to quote the Bard.

As I said before, this novel was definitely not bad. However, I just felt sort of underwhelmed. It’s a quiet novel of a family’s interactions in the face of major change, both good and bad. It could almost be a slice-of-life novel, provided that the life in question is rather dramatic. This isn’t really my favorite type of book, though I respect it when it’s done well. This one isn’t done poorly, I just think Brown could have done more with the characters and situations she created.

While I wouldn’t classify this as a total disappointment — as I said, it’s not poorly written or unforgivably dull — I’m hoping my next read has a bit more verve and excitement.

Happy Reading!

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

Review: The Little Giant of Aberdeen County

The Little Giant of Aberdeen County, by Tiffany Baker, is an interesting novel. I can’t quite remember why I picked it up at the bookstore, but once I had it, it languished, unread, on my bookshelf for about two years. I opened it once, but for some reason or other I never made it past the first page. My second stab at it was (obviously) more successful.

The novel opens at a funeral, narrated by the main character, Truly. Truly is a an immense woman, the titular giant of her county. The story then jumps back in time from the funeral scene to before Truly’s birth; the main narrative then traces her life from infancy through her troubled childhood through her even more troubled adulthood. Eventually, the storyline loops back to the same funeral, and then progresses on from there. Truly is the type of flawed heroine whose burdens and difficulties in life are painfully real, relatable even when her size and specific situations are not.

Truly is born big and continues to grow throughout her life. She towers over everyone else in Aberdeen, though she finds her place — after several tragedies — at a farm on the outskirts of town. Truly loves her makeshift family and her life on their farm, especially the work with her horses. However, her happiness is never complete, as her splintered family and dismal past never quite relinquish their grasp. The family secrets are dark and frigid, with far-reaching consequences. The tangled web of secrets and hidden agendas ensnares many characters, affecting them across the years in the narrative. Without giving away any spoilers, let me just say this: it’s hard to say who’s right or wrong in many of the situations, and Baker pushes the reader to consider the choices and how they might act in the same circumstances.

One of the few constants in the novel is the insidious and icy Robert Morgan. There are several Robert Morgans — a veritable lineage of them — but one in particular acts as the anchor that not only holds Truly in place, but very nearly drags her under. Truly makes a serious sacrifice for this awful man, who thanks her for her pains by tormenting her for years without mercy. His demeanor is hardly better toward his own son; the family dysfunction is the driving force of the latter part of the novel.

The Little Giant of Aberdeen County is a heavy read, but manages to tug your heartstrings and be dramatic without verging into hackneyed melodrama. Baker mostly avoids bogging her characters down with the many tragedies, large and small, that they face, focusing rather on the way they change the lives in the wake of the events. It’s remarkably fast-paced for a novel of its breadth, and kept my attention well (something family dramas have occasionally failed to do in the past). The three main characters are endearing in their own ways, while the villains are unrelenting in their machinations. Baker presents a small-town world of the past, self-contained and content to stay that way, even as she reminds the reader that the life in such a town was in no way as idyllic as we like to imagine.

I liked The Little Giant of Aberdeen County, but I don’t know that it’s a book I’ll reread in the future. The dramatic pull of the novel kept me engaged, and the conflicts still have me thinking and considering, but I don’t think it’s quite enough to merit a permanent spot on my bookshelf.

Happy reading, and Happy holidays!

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review