Monthly Archives: March 2013

Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

photo(2)Book Description (Amazon):

Marriage can be a real killer.
One of the most critically acclaimed suspense writers of our time, New York Times bestseller Gillian Flynn takes that statement to its darkest place in this unputdownable masterpiece about a marriage gone terribly, terribly wrong. The Chicago Tribune proclaimed that her work “draws you in and keeps you reading with the force of a pure but nasty addiction.” Gone Girl’s toxic mix of sharp-edged wit and deliciously chilling prose creates a nerve-fraying thriller that confounds you at every turn.
On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl 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 in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?
With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around.

My Review:

Executive summary: sociopathic

The story is told alternately by Nick (first person) and by Amy via her diary.

The book starts out and you meet Nick and Amy and proceed through their life a little bit. You see how they meet (at a party) and how they eventually get married and start a life together in New York City. Then Nick loses his job (writing about celebrities for a magazine) and then Amy follows (writing quizzes for women’s magazines). Then it turns out that Amy’s parents are underwater in their mortgage and request most of Amy’s trust fund (obtained through their series of books about “Amazing Amy”). Nick’s parents are falling ill with cancer (his mother) and Alzheimer’s (his hated father). They decide to move back to Nick’s home town in Missouri to be closer to his family.

Amy supplies Nick and his twin Margo (Go) with money to open up “The Bar” *sigh* and she busies herself with mid-western tasks like taking Nick’s mom to chemo and taking care of their McMansion in the burbs. And then on Nick and Amy’s 5 year anniversary, Amy goes missing.

So at the beginning of the book, I’m mostly sympathetic with Amy. I agreed with the “cool girl” issue. (Although I just happen to naturally be one of those cool girls 😉 ) And it sounded miserable to first lose your job, then your financial stability, and then your life in the city you loved and grew up in. (However, I was not sympathetic to her stupid quizzes in the diary. Annoying.)

As the search for Amy grows, it is obvious that Nick is the main suspect. I’ve watched Law & Order. It’s to be expected. And then you find out that like on all the Law & Order episodes, Nick has a young hot mistress, and is kind of a douche of a person. He doesn’t put in any effort in any of his relationships and just spends all his time dwelling in what used to be. In short, he sucks.

But you’re waiting for the twist. This book wouldn’t be that popular if the husband did it, would it? The scavenger hunt that happens every year on their anniversary leads Nick to various places, and makes him start falling back in love with Amy…until it leads him to the woodshed full of things he said he didn’t buy on the credit cards he didn’t know he had. And then he realizes that Amy faked her own death and is setting him up in an overly elaborate detailed scheme. So you’re still kind of on Amy’s side. Nick is a jerk, but you realize that Amy is kind of insane. (And it seems difficult to me that this “cool girl” Amy has kept up this asinine treasure hunt game year after year when Nick never even gets the clues. That doesn’t make you a “cool girl”. It makes you annoying. It leads me to think that she gave up on the “cool girl” thing as soon as the vows were said.)

So Nick takes on his own detective role with his new lawyer and his token black wife (I only say that because I thought it was a bit ironic because that same statement was made by the author about Amy earlier in the book). He realizes he is being played so he decides to go on the offensive and play the game back. He convinces Amy that he is truly sorry and that he loves her SOOoooo much. He also finds out Amy has lied and manipulated people her entire life. He talks to a high school friend and a few ex-boyfriends and realizes that when she doesn’t get what she wants or has a point to prove, she will take it to an extreme level.

At the same time, Amy has changed her appearance and is hiding out at a cabin with $9k+ of cash. She then is robbed by two other vagrants she had befriended and then has to call one of the ex-boyfriends for help. He hides her out at his lake house, essentially holding her hostage (as he is very bizarre and has mommy issues himself) until she plans her escape. Her escape is letting him have sex with her, drugging him and then killing him. …

She returns to Nick (and the police and press) with the story that she had been kidnapped by her obsessive ex-boyfriend who raped her, so she killed him and escaped. Nick wanted nothing to do with her but he had no proof, so time went on as he, Go, and one of the police officers try to find evidence to link Amy to any of the crimes. In the end, they give up because psycho Amy has used Nick’s sperm from the sperm bank (that he forgot to get rid of) to trap him with a baby. He decides to man up and be a dad with the psycho and the story ends. Um…ok.

The book is addicting. You want to find out what happens. I read it in a day and a half. In that, I think the author succeeds in painting a really good, well-thought out story. Until the end. It starts sort of falling apart for me at the cabin. Amy changes her plan. She initially was going to wait to kill herself until after Nick was arrested, but then when she thinks he loves her again, she reneges. And, what sort of obsessive planner would flash around that kind of cash? (possible answer: a spoiled brat idiot one?) And then the quick wrap up with <>. It just seemed to become a bit hurried and a bit out of character. The ending itself didn’t really bother me as much as it seemed to bother others. I mean, we already knew that Nick wanted a kid. You couldn’t let your kid be alone with someone that insane. And obviously you’re insane if you think that a kid will fix your marriage. It actually seemed to work pretty well. You are left feeling really sorry for that unborn child though. With a sociopath and a whiny weiner for parents. He’s definitely never going to be the “cool kid”.

Verdict:

3.5 stars. The book sucks you in and makes you want to keep reading and find out what happens. (What happens may or may not be what you want, but it is for the most part an interesting ride.) In the end though, you don’t like any of the characters, and I think that is a bit disappointing. There’s no one really to root for, and because of that, I think the book is in some ways going to be very forgettable to me. In general, I’m usually fairly “meh” about these sort of crime/thriller books as they tend to be very uncreative/overdone or just completely unrealistic. I think Flynn put a genuine amount of effort into making this story as seamless as possible.

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The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway

the sun also risesBook Description (Amazon):

The quintessential novel of the Lost Generation, The Sun Also Rises is one of Ernest Hemingway’s masterpieces and a classic example of his spare but powerful writing style. A poignant look at the disillusionment and angst of the post-World War I generation, the novel introduces two of Hemingway’s most unforgettable characters: Jake Barnes and Lady Brett Ashley. The story follows the flamboyant Brett and the hapless Jake as they journey from the wild nightlife of 1920s Paris to the brutal bullfighting rings of Spain with a motley group of expatriates. It is an age of moral bankruptcy, spiritual dissolution, unrealized love, and vanishing illusions. First published in 1926, The Sun Also Rises helped to establish Hemingway as one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century.

My Review:

Executive Summary: where’s this going? (answer: no where)

Last year for book club, we read The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. The Paris Wife is a historical fiction novel from the point of view of Hadley, Hemingway’s first wife. So the story line from that book coincides with the story line of The Sun Also Rises which is why we chose it as our classic for this year. (Side note:  The Paris Wife was a really great read.)

The Sun Also Rises is a roman à clef, which apparently is the term for a story based on real people and real events but using fake names. (The more you know.) This makes it a little more challenging to review because it isn’t like there is a overused plot point or an event that wraps up too quickly or easily. You’re basically just judging the people themselves, which essentially is just gossip. 🙂

In The Paris Wife, Hadley is upset because although she was present for all the events written about in The Sun Also Rises, she wasn’t included as a character in the book. At the time, I agreed with her, but after reading TSAR, I didn’t. The story was very much a “man’s book” (aka a story about a man and his friends and the things they find interesting like ladies and fishing and bull fighting and booze). And I think that having a married main character would have detracted from that. (It begs the question of whether it should have been a man’s book when the author was indeed married but that’s a different question for a different day.)

The story follows Jake (Hemingway), his childhood friend Bill (his real name), the Lady Brett Ashley (Duff Twysden), her fiance Mike Campbell (Pat Guthrie) and their “friend” Robert Cohn (Harold Loeb) throughout their lives in Paris and their trip to Spain to see the spectacle of the fiesta in 1926. The general “plot” of the book, if you could really say there is one, is that everyone is in love with Lady Ashley. Lady Ashley, recently divorced, visits Jake while in Paris with her “friend” Count Mippipopolous.  Jake and Brett love each other but it won’t work (presumably because he’s impotent?). They travel to Pampalona (by way of a fishing trip to Bayonne) to enjoy the fiesta. There they find out that Brett and Robert went on a romantic getaway together which meant nothing to Brett but Robert doesn’t get the picture and follows her and Mike around like a lost puppy the entire book. At the fiesta, Jake introduces Brett to Romero, the beloved matador, and she begins a relationship with him too. Cohn, a boxer in college, fights with just about all of the characters, and Brett leaves Romero and returns to Mike in the end.

Apparently the main theme of the book is supposed to be about this “Lost Generation” of post-WW1 veterans and general young people at the time (I believe that only Jake/Hemingway was a veteran.) With the privilege of time backing me up, I think that term is hilarious. This “Lost Generation” is now referred to as “the Golden Generation”!!! Believe me, I am sympathetic to those who went through the great depression, but this book was written pre-that. It’s hard for me to get all misty eyed about a bunch of people having such a rough life but yet they are able to gallivant around Europe traveling and boozing all the while only one of them seems to have a “real job”. Uh huh, like that would be feasible today.

On the flip side though, I think a lot of the characters are themselves sympathetic. And in many ways, they seem just like modern characters. I know a lot of Brett Ashleys–the girls who can’t love anyone including themselves. I know the Robert Cohns who sing the sad song about how “nice guys finish last” when everyone can see they only pick the girls who prey on the nice guys. I know Bill, and I have even have the same experience with the hilariousness of giving someone a stuffed dog (in this case lynx). These characters are familiar, and I think in many ways that keeps the story modern. (Although it does make me a bit sad that people haven’t really changed in 100 years.)

I also wonder if at the time the stories about the fiesta were less well known in 1926. Although I do not personally know anyone who has gone (I will after this upcoming year!), I’m familiar with the idea and I have known about it since as long as I can remember. However, I’m sure if I had never heard of it, I would find the story about it much more fascinating. However, the similarity between Jake reading/talking/researching about the various matadors had a very similar feel to the way the modern male population buzzes about college football/NFL/MLB/<insert some sport here>. I guess some things never change. Perhaps the lost generation is not so much a “generation”, and more just a rite of passage.

Verdict:

3 stars. Honestly, thank goodness for Bill. He was the only character I found I could relate to and enjoy. He seemed more grounded than the rest and really was kind of the “glue” of the characters in the book. I’ve only read one other Hemingway (The Old Man and the Sea) and from what I remember, it was more of the same. A “man’s book” that just never really went anywhere. While I didn’t love it, I also didn’t despise it. I just don’t think I will go out of my way to read any more of Hemingway’s books on my own.

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Filed under 3 stars, Book Club, Book Review