Gillian Flynn: A Dark Distraction

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Once again I found myself distracted from The Lord of the Rings -this time by Gillian Flynn’s Dark PlacesBut Gone Girl was just so good, and this seemed like a more appropriate beach read than Fellowship of the Ring. If you were to find yourself sunbathing for a few days, wouldn’t you rather read about a woman discovering new truths about the brutal murder of her entire family when she was 7 years old?

It was interesting to have read her most recent work (Gone Girl) first, and then to pick this up. The darkness and Gothic influences definitely show themselves in her writing, and the same twisted humour is present in Dark Places as it was in Gone Girl. Here is the thing: after reading both books, there is an undeniable progression and improvement in Flynn’s writing. She earned notoriety with Sharp Objects (which I haven’t read), then (I assume) grew and refined her style with Dark Places, and Gone Girl is – so far – the culmination of everything she has learned from being a successful contemporary fiction author.

These are very macabre, very disturbing subjects and themes. I would not recommend them for your 5-year old’s bed time stories, per say. They seem to explore these parts of humanity that frighten us. When I was a teenager I read that Marilyn Manson wrote fiction stories when he was a child which depicted gruesome murders and disturbing plots. Gillian Flynn’s writing reminds me of that. It seems to me that she and he would make a mean writing team. If you put those two in a room together with a type writer, I’m sure that the resulting oeuvre would make Edgar Allen Poe and Grimm’s Fairy Tales looks like Sesame Street and Blue’s Clues.

And it’s not so much that Flynn is gratuitously gory; there are no self-indulgent tangents about how to cut up a body, no pages-long descriptions of murders. Flynn does not seem to revel in the details of the darkness, rather the psychological, emotional and social impacts they have on her characters. By writing her novels in the voices of multiple narrators, she is able to explore the events from multiple angles, giving her audience the chance to consider in just how many ways these effed up situations can affect a person. She plays with the inner monologue of her characters, giving us new ways to look at the same thing. It’s fun. But messed up. 

Gillian Flynn is a good author, and I swallowed both her books whole in a matter of days, but I don’t know if it’s her writing or the subject matter that intrigues me so much and keeps me reading. But then, they’re kind of the same thing, aren’t they?

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