Monday, November 4, 2013

Author Spotlight: Gillian Flynn

I loved each one of Gillian Flynn’s trio of spellbinding thrillers. I of course came late to the party, as usual, and discovered this great author only after all the ruckus caused by the last of her books, Gone Girl, had spent the better part of a year on the best sellers list. Flynn offers a bold and unique voice, as her protagonists are the antithesis of what we as readers have come to expect from our heroines; no sweet, meek, vulnerable, or lost women here. Flynn’s heroines are dark, flawed, and utterly captivating.

Flynn has said “Libraries are filled with stories on generations of brutal men, trapped in a cycle of aggression. I wanted to write about the violence of women… Isn’t it time to acknowledge the ugly side? I’ve grown quite weary of the spunky heroines, brave rape victims, soul-searching fashionistas that stock so many books. I particularly mourn the lack of female villains — good, potent female villains… I’m talking violent, wicked women. Scary women” and in these three page-turners does she ever deliver.

Each novel offers an ingenious and engrossing mystery which keeps you on the edge of your seat right until the last page. They are addictive, unputdownable books which will leave you chilled and mouth slightly ajar at the knowledge that such a sinister tale can come from one person’s brilliant yet twisted imagination. It’s no easy feat to take these unsympathetic leading characters and still make us care about their journey; a fact which speaks volumes about the quality of her storytelling.

While Gone Girl was the book that garnered the most buzz and which drew me to Flynn as an author, I actually read Dark Places first, followed by Sharp Objects, and Gone Girl last, and it’s also the order I would put them in as far as preference. Each one offers an unforgettable tale, but Dark Places hit me like a good punch to the solar plexus through its countless twists and turns; while Sharp Objects enthralled me as much by Camille, whom I found a haunting and pitiable character for whom I felt the utmost of compassion, as by the murder mystery.

Dark Places. I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ. Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” As her family lay dying, little Libby fled their tiny farmhouse into the freezing January snow. She lost some fingers and toes, but she survived–and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, Ben sits in prison, and troubled Libby lives off the dregs of a trust created by well-wishers who’ve long forgotten her. The Kill Club is a macabre secret society obsessed with notorious crimes. When they locate Libby and pump her for details–proof they hope may free Ben–Libby hatches a plan to profit off her tragic history. For a fee, she’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club… and maybe she’ll admit her testimony wasn’t so solid after all. As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the narrative flashes back to January 2, 1985. The events of that day are relayed through the eyes of Libby’s doomed family members–including Ben, a loner whose rage over his shiftless father and their failing farm have driven him into a disturbing friendship with the new girl in town. Piece by piece, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started–on the run from a killer.

Sharp Objects. WICKED above her hipbone, GIRL across her heart. Words are like a road map to reporter Camille Preaker’s troubled past. Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, Camille’s first assignment from the second-rate daily paper where she works brings her reluctantly back to her hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. Since she left town eight years ago, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed again in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille is haunted by the childhood tragedy she has spent her whole life trying to cut from her memory. As Camille works to uncover the truth about these violent crimes, she finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Clues keep leading to dead ends, forcing Camille to unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past to get at the story. Dogged by her own demons, Camille will have to confront what happened to her years before if she wants to survive this homecoming.

Gone Girl. On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick Dunne’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick Dunne isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but hearing from Amy through flashbacks in her diary reveal the perky perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer? As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister Margo at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was left in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

It comes as no surprise that the movie rights for each one of these great novels has already been sold. In fact, Gone Girl is already in production with none other than Ben Affleck cast in the role of Nick, and Dark Places will feature the beautiful Charlize Theron in the lead role of Libby Day, a choice which kind of sticks in my craw since she’s a gazillion miles from Libby as written, which was barely five foot in height or as Libby said "dwarfy", with faded freckles, pug nose and dyed white-blonde hair; nonetheless, I’ll reserve judgment on her casting until I see the film, since it’s as much about the performance as it is about the appearance.

A movie rarely does a great book justice for the true magic of the tale can only be found in the author’s written word, so pick up one or all of Flynn’s books and settle in for an incredible thrill ride which will both haunt and amaze.