Gillian Flynn hit the peak of fame with the 2014 movie adaptation of her novel “Gone Girl” directed by David Fincher. But “Gone Girl” is the third book written by her, following “Sharp Objects” and “Dark Places“, all set in the mid-western state of Missouri in USA, where she was born and raised.
Daughter of a film studies professor and a reading-comprehension teaching mother, Gillian followed in their footsteps as she did her undergraduate degrees in English and journalism followed by a Master’s degree in Journalism. She worked as a trade writer, police reporter, entertainment critic, etc. but after spending 15 years in journalism, she decided to just sit down and write instead of waiting for a muse to come and inspire her, i.e., she became a full-time writer.
Let’s take a look at her published works.
Published in 2006, “Sharp Objects” is story of Camille Preaker, a journalist, who comes to her hometown of “Wind Gap” in Missouri to cover abduction and murders of couple of young girls. As the story moves on, we understand Camille’s past, the anxieties and troubles of an illegitimate child, trapped in a family with a psychologically unsound mother, a not-so-caring stepfather and a a sister that died young.
As a bewilderingly confused and depressed teenager, she found her escape in words and sharp objects, with which she could cut the words on her body. Even though on surface she escaped her family home to work in a Chicago paper, she couldn’t escape the obsession and is still battling with it after hospitalization and therapies. Coming back to ‘Wind Gap’ and staying in her mother’s palatial house brings back all her vulnerabilities. She also gets acquainted with her beautiful and strange step-sister Amma. While trying to uncover the serial killer who kidnapped two young girls in last nine months, strangled them and removed their teeth, she uncovers horrible truths about her own family. The book keeps you on edge of your seat until the end, even after a murderer is discovered.
Sharp Objects put Gyllian Flynn on the map of American mystery/crime writers and won a fair number of awards.
“Dark Places” was published in 2009. Like its predecessor it’s set up in provincial Missouri town of Kansas and takes off from a ritualistic mass-murder of a family by a so-called satanic worshiper. Fifteen year old Benjamin Day was convicted for brutally murdering his mother Patty and younger sisters Michelle and Debby in January, 1983. His youngest sister Libby managed to escape through a window and later gave the testimony that convicted Ben in spite of lack of physical evidence.
Libby has never really gotten over the massacre and has chronic depression even though she was subjected to intensive counseling and therapy when growing up. She received donations and charity from people in wake of the killings, and has managed to live off it so far with no need to find paid work. But, the money is run out now and in desperate attempts to raise some, she meets a group of amateur detectives called ‘The Kill Club’ who force her to face the fact that she was only eight year old at the time of crime, and very possibly committed perjury in her testimony. It is now Libby’s turn to face her “Dark Places” and find out the truth that destroyed her family and a part of herself. We travel with her as one of main threads of story is told by Libby along with narratives by Ben and Patty, adding their own versions of the day when the tragedy occurred.
“Dark Places” is now adapted into a movie by the same name starring Charlize Theron as Libby Day and is released in US on August 7, 2015.
It was “Gone Girl” that hit the bestseller charts when published in 2012 and brought acclaim to its writer. When Amy Eliott disappears on her fifth wedding anniversary, her husband Nick Dunne is left with no option but to face the outside world and the inside turmoils of their difficult marriage.
The story is told by both Nick and Amy, giving us different version of the same events including their romance, marriage, losing jobs due to downsizing, moving back to Nick’s hometown in Missouri to take care of his ailing mother, Nick’s infidelity and finally Amy’s disappearance. The story is gripping as the narratives keep contradicting, making the reader feel baffled, confused and challenged to find the truth.
The novel was critically approved and rightly so, this being the most mature and most complex work by Flynn. Flynn also wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation starring Ben Afleck and Rosamund Pike, which was released in 2014 and was very well received, both commercially and critically.
All three published novels by Flynn have similar themes – dysfunctional families, self hatred, depression, tendency to harm self and others, callousness of characters, ugliness of this world and struggle for survival. She has been blamed as misogynist, for all her novels feature female protagonists that are far from angelic. She herself proclaims that she is just portraying women as real humans who are not typecast-ed as honorable, angelic and do-gooders all the time. Her female characters are trampy, vampish, vengeful, shallow, selfish and sometimes evil and still there is an undercurrent of decency hidden among all this complexity that defines her heroins.
So, if you are tired of reading romances or sharp shooting thrillers, here is a dose of something different. Flynn’s writing is decidedly dark and she has carved out a niche for herself. Since she promises the readers of “Gone Girl” that her next work is going to be equally sinister and creepy, there is more to come.
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