Around the Year Reading Challenge Item #4: A book by an author you discovered in 2015
I can't say I exactly "discovered" Gillian Flynn last year, as, due to the blockbuster status of Gone Girl, she's been on my radar most of the time I've worked in libraries. But it wasn't till last year that I actually READ her, and discovered that, holy expletive, the hype was totally worth it.
This book took longer to get going for me than Gone Girl did, but it is worth the wait. What's more, the slow start and incremental buildup sets the perfect tone for this creepy, atmospheric horror novel that looks at a very dark underbelly of a sleepy small town. Although not quite so sinister (thank goodness), she captured the small-town mentality well, particularly how stifling it can feel to come back to after you have been gone for a while.
As I was listening to this novel, I kept having this odd sense of familiarity, and I could not put my finger on why. I knew it wasn't reminding me of Gone Girl, because although both are exquisitely twisted and examine some of the same themes, the tone of the two is very different. But then about halfway through, I realized why this story felt familiar: it was like a more nuanced, psychologically astute version of V.C. Andrews, complete with selfish, manipulative parents and lurid, precocious sex.
Despite this, Flynn's mastery of both the writing craft and her characters' psychology keep this book from ever feeling "trashy" -- it is too "smart" for that. Similar to Gone Girl, it explores themes about media informing reality as the main character, a journalist, attempts to capture "real" reactions to the murders of two little girls in her hometown.
Although the characters in this novel are pervasively flawed, they are utterly believable, which is one of the things that makes the book so haunting. In skimming a lot of the reviews, I found that a lot of people who didn't like the book were frustrated by the poor choices that Camille makes again and again. I was frustrated with her as well, but I also think people who judge her too harshly need to take a step back and look at how or why she turned out the way she did -- growing up without parental love doesn't exactly leave one unscarred, and it's frankly she's been able to pull herself together and do as well as she has (moving away, finishing college, holding down a job, etc.) There was a bit around the middle when I was afraid the "romance" was going to get a little too saccharine, but I should have trusted Flynn to do better than that.
This book is not for the faint of heart, as it includes vivid descriptions of vomiting, pig slaughter, and underage sexuality. But if you don't mind spending a little time in the very dark corners of someone else's imagination, you might want to consider hanging out in Windgap.
[btw: could not get this song out of my head the whole time I was reading this book.]