I finally went ahead and did it. I read a Gillian Flynn book. Wait, no, not that one. Not yet at least because just as I was ready to settle down with it, you know, Gone Girl, my mom lent it to someone else. Instead, I found Flynn’s novel Dark Places that drew me in with an interesting storyline.
It’s rare that I’ll stick with a book without finding some remote interest in characters, but the mystery had a hold on me that made me power read through. I cannot say I was overly invested in these characters and it’s not because they were flawed and “dark.” When reading, I don’t need to love characters or relate to them, but I do crave a fascination in them, wondering what will happen and how they might react in a situation. To be honest, as much as I liked the book overall, I didn’t care enough about the people in the beginning, which I think would have left more of an impact, in order to care in the end. All I wanted was to solve the mystery.
The mystery is what happened to a family of five, a single-mother, her three young daughters, and her teen son, who was arrested and convicted for the murders of three of them. These are not spoilers, but the premise offered on the back of the book. To start, we, the readers, are taken to a point years later when the sole surviving victim, the youngest daughter, is still very angry at the world (rightfully so), especially when no longer being able to rely on living off of the infamy that tore her life apart. An assortment of characters both living in the present and those dead looking back on the past to that last day carry the storyline along only in the sense that they fulfill necessary roles. There was some decent character development, but nothing that heightened my investment in them.
In mysteries, I’ve found that this is often the case. The premise, mystery, and resolution are far more intriguing than what characters may have to offer. It doesn’t matter who they are so long as they take you to the places you need to go, or more appropriately, can be carried to the places you need them to go. One person who incorporates both a great story and well-developed characters is JK Rowling in her Cormoran Strike series. Okay, yes, I suppose I’m slightly biased when it comes to my Literary Queen, but that is an excellent series so far! (Harry Potter will always be better, sorry I’m not sorry).
Please don’t think that I am bashing Flynn’s writing because I did enjoy reading and I could not put it down. The ending wasn’t terrible, though I was disappointed I didn’t figure it out, and at least it had a resolution! I will always be cautious about reading mysteries in the fear that they will not be resolved in the end thanks to In The Woods by Tana French.
I recommend this book, especially if you are a fan of Flynn’s Gone Girl, but then again, I haven’t read that yet.
Another book I read this week was Claire Messud’s The Woman Upstairs. To put it lightly, this was a strange novel. Spoken through the main character’s inner monologue, nothing big really happens, save for a few intriguing moments, so the story has to be carried along by characters. Though the main character definitely left me wondering of what she was capable, I didn’t care enough about the supporting characters that the protagonist is obsessed with and I think this hindered my appreciation for the book.
As a reader, such as in life, you don’t have to agree with a character’s motive, but it’s important to be able to understand where in which an action or feeling stems. I kept waiting for something momentous to happen, which is not a bad writing device, but was left a bit confused as to where it ended. That’s not to say that I was in the mourning stage of having finished a book because I didn’t love it enough for that (that is a real thing by the way, it has to be), but it also didn’t leave me seething mad, so I will take it.
I didn’t hate the book by any means, I just thought it was strange. Again, not necessarily a bad thing.
To end this edition of Rave Review Tuesday, here’s a bit of a tangent. Since connecting my e-reader to the library, I’ve found some books that I wouldn’t normally have read, but I’m also missing that inspired feeling I get when I step into an actual library or bookstore, surrounded by books and creative, imaginative spirits. That’s why I try to alternate where I access my books. Yes, the e-reader is more convenient, but there is something to be said about holding an actual book in your hand to connect with it.