This is one of the saddest, most harrowing, horrifying books I've ever read. Despite an occasionally dragging plot, I read it in 24 hours and it madeThis is one of the saddest, most harrowing, horrifying books I've ever read. Despite an occasionally dragging plot, I read it in 24 hours and it made me cry. And, incidentally, it was absolutely the wrong book to read during Storm Frank. The entire house shook for most of it, and I've been cold for 24 hours....more
This is the Diary of a penitent Sinner. We know she was Penitent because she tells Us repeatedly, despite the fact that she continues to Sin with a ReThis is the Diary of a penitent Sinner. We know she was Penitent because she tells Us repeatedly, despite the fact that she continues to Sin with a Reckless abandonment that should be Enjoyable but is not, Really. She essentially Runs around London prostituting herself for Around forty years, and stealing from people, insisting that she feels Bad while showing no evidence of feeling so. There is some Enjoyment to be had in its depiction of the completely Unstoppable "Mrs. Flanders" (not her Real name and, no, Mara Dyer fans, you don't find out what her real Name is, either). Nothing puts a dent in this Woman, whether it's being Seduced, stolen from, forced into marriage, Impregnated, bankrupted, Arrested, caught out in her various misbehaviours. I'm making this sound fun - it's not Fun. It's written Like This, for one, and there are also no paragraph breaks. Or very few. You will wonder if Daniel Defoe's Caps Lock AND his space bar were both Broken, and his creativity and source of literary talent. It's just dull. Somehow a story of a woman who Spends her whole life Cheating people, being cheated, and Spectacularly worming her way out of every single Nightmare that befalls her with a steely determination and only occasional Fainting fits can be dull. I don't understand it Either....more
Frankly, for how often people in this novel write this, the reader themselves may find themselves staring at the 1,400+ tigh4.5 stars
"I cannot go on."
Frankly, for how often people in this novel write this, the reader themselves may find themselves staring at the 1,400+ tightly-packed remaining pages in horror, and thinking, if only you bloody hadn't.
No, I did not read it all. I think my abridgement probably totalled over 1,00 pages though, which, in three days, is not bad. I was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed this once I started. It's a surprisingly modern novel in many ways; though Clarissa may be a perfect, luminous "angel" - aren't many of the eighteenth-century heroines? - Richardson spares no blushes in his totalling of Clarissa's treatment and the novel was bizarrely addictive. It's thrilling in places, Clarissa is no passive fool, and the dialogue sparkles between Clarissa and her best friend, Anna, and particularly Clarissa and the horrible Lovelace, a preening, self-indulgent, narcissistic villain of whom writers of twenty-first century psychological thrillers would be proud. It really does feel like a pioneering classic in places, stretching its use of form and Richardson's talents.
Until it pushes its conceit too far. After the immediate fallout from Lovelace's sexual assault of Clarissa, the novel just seems to run out of steam, a sad thing given that there were still at least 500 pages to go. I read an abridgement of the Penguin edition that my supervisor recommended and, despite missing out chunks of the text, when Belford repented his actions and Clarissa levelled up so completely in sainthood that one could be forgiven for expecting her to suddenly grow wings at any moment, it seemed like I had missed absolutely nothing. (Unlike earlier in the text, where I could tell that I was missing nuances of the plot by skipping letters.)
Nevertheless, I'm giving this one 4 stars because...it's the classic, okay? I enjoyed this one a lot more - and read it a hell of a lot faster - than Richardson's other novel, Pamela, despite the fact that Pamela is about 1/3 of the length (still no mean feat - you will wonder if anybody in the eighteenth century experienced hand cramp.) In many ways, they could almost be two different variants on the same story, both featuring a virtuous young woman being pursued by a rakish and seemingly unreliable potential lover. However, while Pamela is stilted, dry, dull, and slow, Clarissa is dark, mesmerising, and fluent in its sustained skill. Its main dark topic - rape - is handled with a sensitivity, comprehension, and quiet devastation that many modern authors could learn from. Am I really giving 4 stars to a book for it not being Pamela? Yes. Yes, I am....more
I really wanted to give this one 4 stars. It was probably closer to 4.5 for the first 30% or so - I loved it. I lov3.5 stars
Damn you, Caroline Kepnes.
I really wanted to give this one 4 stars. It was probably closer to 4.5 for the first 30% or so - I loved it. I loved what a twenty-first century take it was on stalking, I was horribly compelled by Joe's voice, and Kepnes's writing is just fantastic. I crashed through this when I was supposed to be doing my university work like an addict. I was amazed by her skill at pulling off an absolute boat load of pop culture references while seeming true to her character's voice and actually adding something to the book, rather than seeming dated and uncomfortable. The dialogue was dead on and I loved the whole satirical edge on "twenty-somethings today" without seeming obnoxious or patronising. My only complaint at this stage of the novel was that I was personally uncomfortable by some of the black humour. That doesn't mean it wasn't skilful - I just have quite low tolerance for mean spirited black humour.
Nevertheless, I found this incredibly promising and well-written -- until I realized that I wasn't actually all that keen on the way the plot developed, particularly from around 60% onwards.
Firstly, Joe's luck was staggering. There are six incidents (four of them major) that I can think of where he gets away with his actions not out of ingenuity but sheer blind luck. I really feel guilty for picking holes like this because it's so well-written, damn it, that when I was reading, I sort of went along with it for most of the novel until the final act pushed me over the brink. All writers need to do this to some extent, of course, but looking back on the novel, it seems like the entire plot was comprised of Joe getting into scrapes from following Beck around, and then just happening to wiggle out of them by random coincidence. I didn't mind the fact that he fooled the police in Rhode Island, or I would have minded a lot less, if it hadn't been preceded by Benji's convenient problems, (view spoiler)[ then being exonerated by the random and unlikely boat crash (even though he was suspected in the first place); Peach never once seeing Joe's face when he tried to kill her in Central Park; Beck not seeing Joe on the Charles Dickens ferry; the, again, very convenient way Joe dispatched of Peach despite not exactly planning to do it like that or knowing it would end up that way, and, the biggest one of all, the one that made me say, "Okay, Kepnes, time out": Beck's death. (hide spoiler)]
I could have forgiven all of this, though, because a similar accusation has been levelled at one of my favourite contemporary novels, Gone Girl. Gone Girl sailed by on its unlikelihood because the character work was so fantastic that I hardly noticed, and, though it did not always explain things in the most plausible way, there was a decided effort by Flynn at tying it together. (Although, on another note, this book is really nothing like Gone Girl and I wish everyone would stop comparing every goddamn psychological thriller since 2012 to Gone Girl.) It seemed like Kepnes had her events in place and her ending decided, but couldn't tie the two together, so sort of slopped them together a bit unconvincingly and crosed her fingers. Good (and frequently great) writing papers over the cracks but can't totally hide the implausibilities and holes.
Onto the character work. Joe is an incredibly compelling villain protagonist. He really is monstrous, but Kepnes balances it perfectly; he's not too moustache-twirling but I never felt like she was buying into Joe's myths of himself. I was initially impressed with the characterisation of (Guinevere) Beck, Joe's paramour of the moment, an aspiring writer who is also a self-centred flake, likes to be worshipped and may or may not be a bit of a stalker herself. At first, Beck is a woman with the messy parts left in, the ugly parts, and I really respected Kepnes's characterisation of her (and it might sound pathetic, but an attractive woman who masturbates? An acknowledgement that that is actually an acceptable thing?)
But, as we started to get a better sense of Beck-the-person, not just Beck-the-Joe-construct, I began to feel wary. Beck, from her first appearance, is all about sex. She wears a jumper without a bra. She exposes her underwear. She flirts with everything, everyone, she goes on Craigslist for daddy-issue sex, even her best friend is a predatory lesbian who gets off to pictures of her. At first, I assumed that this was Joe's stalker-gaze, distorting Beck-the-person but, particularly in the last quarter, we learn some things about Beck that affirm this view of her. She writes sex-crazed stories and, in a final revelation, she is essentially exposed as a slut. I disapprove of that word. I would never use that word in normal conversation, I don't believe in that, but with the revelations that Beck has (view spoiler)[slept with her psychiatrist, seduced him after weeks of aggressively trying, got him to buy her a Macbook, then withdrawn her affections abruptly because he left his wife and it got too serious (hide spoiler)], it feels like that's the word Kepnes is trying to prompt, to put in my head. I know that Kepnes is a woman herself and I did really like her portrayals of Karen and Beck, and her portrayal of the believable friendship between Beck and her friends, and I at first admired her portrayal of a woman who is not the male fantasy of womanhood, but then, the more we saw of Beck, the more I became suspicious of the fact that she seems like another kind of female stereotype, not the manic pixie dream girl but the narcissistic, manipulative, cheating whore.
This, again, would've been fine if Beck had her own voice. When Joe read her psychiatrist's notes, I believed that we might be about to see a Gone Girlish (yes, that book again) twist on the horizon, where, suddenly, Beck gets her own voice and - surprise! - she's just as bad as Joe but not in the pathetic, crawly way that she is, wheedling and seducing and sweet-talking. Or maybe she isn't. Even if she hated Joe, or she really was a manipulative nymphomaniac, or she had to ultimately lose to him, I wanted to see her at least try and match him as his obsession got out of control. I wanted to see her try. I wanted Beck to affirm herself outside of the identity that Joe had made for her, her friends (and the odious Peach) had made for her, Benji had made for her, even her web presence had made for her. But it never came. I'm almost sure that, even though Joe's insidious voice will be stuck with me for a long time, I won't be able to remember very much about Guinevere Beck at all, except that Joe thought he loved her.
I also am slightly side-eyeing all you people who are like, "Kepnes made us root for Joe, showing us that it's not stalker=bad, stalked=good!" I mean, what? Yes, Joe is a fascinating character. He's great to read about. I admit that I hated Peach more, because who couldn't hate such a pretentious, arrogant, and controlling person? (And her name is Peach.) Beck might've been hugely flawed (I'll admit that I accidentally spoiled myself for the "revelation" regarding her family so I have a softer view of that than I might've had if I hadn't seen it coming) but Joe is a serial stalker and murderer. There is a line. This is the line. I feel uncomfortable about the readers who "rooted" for Joe because I'm concerned that somebody could buy into this, "I'm only harassing you because I love you and I want to protect you but I also want you to have sex with me as I wish and wear what I like and do what I want at all times, while I am reading your e-mails, hacking your texts and plotting to do away with those who 'mistreat' you (and get in the way of you doing what I want and living out my fantasy of us being together).
But, ultimately, and this is the unforgivable sin (I really am starting to sound a bit like Joe himself), it becomes a little stale, and, worst of all, predictable. Beck finds out and things unravel, more or less, how they might be expected to. I particularly hated the fact that her way of trying to get through to Joe is to seduce him again. Beck can be as bad and as ugly inside as Kepnes wanted - I'm not taking my issue with that - I'm taking my issue with the fact that, ultimately, she's boring and tropey by comparison. The opportunities to develop her aren't taken and, when in a crisis, she always does the most predictable and shallow thing. As such, she remains a weak sauce to Joe's main course, and I felt like this bought into some uncomfortable things about the portrayal of violence - physical or emotional - against women in fiction. Don't look at the woman. She's not important. She reacts how women do, she does the things women do, and, ultimately, she can't compete. Look at the man. Look at him.
I will, however, Caroline Kepnes, read whatever you write next, because that's how much I love your writing. Even though you sometimes let me down, you deserve me. I know this about you, and I'm only telling you this for your own good. You'll thank me eventually.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
3 stars? 2.5? 3.5? 4? 2? It's up to you. I am at a loss.
After roughly five months, I've finally finished Room. And, well, this review is going to be a3 stars? 2.5? 3.5? 4? 2? It's up to you. I am at a loss.
After roughly five months, I've finally finished Room. And, well, this review is going to be a mess, because I have literally never had so many mixed feelings about a novel in all my reading life. Some people call this brilliant, an incredibly moving portrayal of survival, adaptation and the mother-child bond. Others call this a saccharine, exploitative, manipulative little journey, all horrible things packaged up for the Oprah's book club audience (no offence, Oprah viewers). And I...am exactly in the middle.
I loved Ma. I love a good mother, I must admit, I'm a total sucker. Good mothers are rare to find in literature - for obvious reasons, writers prefer their mothers emotionally distant if not downright abusive, fraught with terrible back stories, cruel to their offspring, deluded and undermining. I thought Donoghue handled Ma perfectly: she'd been through absolute hell, and she really was doing her best all the way through. Ma is an intensely sympathetic character, and, thankfully, not just because of the horrors she's been through. She adores Jack (when she says to one character, "he is the world to me", you know she absolutely means it, and Donoghue totally earned the intense love that there is between Jack and Ma) and it made me almost tear up a couple of times. Theirs was a really deep relationship from her side, a great centerpiece for the novel, as Ma understandably struggles with being Jack's mother and being her own person.
I thought that Donoghue handled the first half, where Jack and Ma are trapped in Room, really, really well. I loved Ma too much to watch her be raped and beaten but, when my Goodreads friends had mentioned the obliqueness with which Donoghue handles the subject, I feared that it would be all very British, where the horrors are shuffled off-screen to allow us to continue with our cosy lives. Thankfully, it wasn't. Donoghue actually does the thing that many people who talk about writing on such icky subjects as rape/murder/abduction claim to do, which is to focus on the emotional aftermath as a substitute for the nasty details. I was also fascinated by the original and surprising way that Donoghue depicts their life in Room, where Jack thinks that nothing is real except what's in Room, they do Physical Education with their very limited furniture, and read The Runaway Bunny over and over.
Then...Jack. Okay, warning: here be a minor spoiler that is revealed at exactly 50% of the way on my Kindle. It's (view spoiler)[Jack and his mother's escape from Room (hide spoiler)]. That's where the novel kind of falters for me, even though it couldn't have either concluded in Room or with their (view spoiler)[escape (hide spoiler)]. It needed this section but I found it easily the most unconvincing, with a lot of loose ends. For example, Ma's relationship with her own father just sort of tailed off - for a writer that had put so much thought into showing Ma's thought processes and feelings even when Jack himself (who narrates) wasn't aware of them. It seemed weird that Donoghue would forget about, for instance, Ma's father, or never really explore what drove her to do what she did at the 3/4 mark ((view spoiler)[her suicide attempt, of course (hide spoiler)]), which sounds stupid, because the poor woman had been through so much, damn it, but I wanted more coherence and specificity about it. As it was, it felt more of a contrivance (!) to separate Jack and his ma.
Jack's voice also got pretty irritating in part two. I agree with some reviewers that it might've been more convincing for Jack to be 8-10 rather than five. It's a difficult balancing act and, unlike the wonderful development of Ma through Jack's eyes, Donoghue doesn't quite pull it off. The little guy confuses brought/brung continuously, among other things, and can't understand the most basic idioms (some of which I'm surprised wouldn't come up in the conversations between Jack and Ma in Room), yet comes out with poetic noble-idiot (forgive the phrase) observations on real life, such as:
I guess the time gets spread very thin like butter all over the world, the roads and houses and playgrounds and stores, so there's only a little smear of time on each place, then everyone has to hurry on to the next bit, or:
In Room we knowed what everything was called but in the world there's so much, persons don't even know the names.
It felt a lot like the Oscar-baity jokes about the noble character who is also challenged, stunted, deprived or childlike in some way but teaches the shallow and materialistic people around them the true meaning of life. Donoghue satirised the way that the media coverage called Jack an angel or a saint, but I thought she really fell into this gross and annoying archetype later in the novel. Also, people have been complimenting Donoghue on her originality and, yes, the first section especially was very, very unique (it's literally just Ma and Jack in a tiny room, and they build an entire world within it, in a way that is interesting, surprising and hopeful), but this gradually slipped away in the second part, which became much more about an unusual child adjusting to a world which seems alien to them, a far duller and less imaginative endeavour.
With that said, it comes to a pretty emotional end. My overall impression was of a book that's not perfect, with both extreme highs and eye-rolling lows. Room is an experiment, not one that always works - neither an unqualified success nor failure. I'll say this, though: I wanted Jack and his ma to be happy. I'd like a sequel where they did nothing but go to the beach, eat chocolate and live happily ever after. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Yes, I know - me again, the unimpressed lone voice in a sea of hype.
First things first: Joe Hill is amazing writer. I plan to read his next b2.5 stars
Yes, I know - me again, the unimpressed lone voice in a sea of hype.
First things first: Joe Hill is amazing writer. I plan to read his next book, and the other after that, and the one after that. This has great scene-setting, a fantastic premise, and some intriguing main characters. I particularly loved all the shoutouts to other music, such as Jackson Browne, Nirvana and Nine Inch Nails. It also has one of the creepiest and most beautifully wrought scenes I've read in a book for a long time - the phone call between Jude and Danny. I got chills when Danny admitted that (view spoiler)["I hung myself a couple of hours ago", which ended with Jude poignantly urging Danny "that road must go somewhere." (hide spoiler)] (this happens within the first 30+ pages, but it's under a spoiler tag because it's genuinely one of the chilliest and best-executed moments in the novel.) I thought that Joe Hill and I were in it for the long haul then.
But, frankly, the book starts to lose something gradually. It's incredibly scary, gripping and intense for the first 100 pages or so, but as I began to sense the twist coming, I started resisting the urge to roll my eyes. I hoped for better. Heart-Shaped Box might 'solely' be an incredibly well-executed ghost story, but surely Hill wouldn't go to that particular well for motivation. This is a no-spoilers review, and it's going to stay that way, at least in the sense that I'm willing to bet you can guess the twist solely from what I'm about to tell you, but it's also in close keeping with the novel: Jude's "girlfriend", Florida (Anna), is an incredibly depressed, anorexic wreck, who is the standard sweet-but-stunted-but-haunted young girl who refuses to talk about her past, grew up with an elder sister and a hypnotist stepfather, cuts herself and generally behaves in an unstable and worrying way. She commits suicide in their house. Why did she do this? Go on, guess. Give me three guesses and I'm willing to bet you could get it immediately. I'm going to "spoil" you under spoiler tags, just so you can see how derivative this twist is:
Well, it is. And from the moment that Georgia/Marybeth, Jude's latest goth girlfriend (herself a victim of molestation) leave her house in Georgia, the engine kinda sputters out of this novel. I'm so sick of male writers who think that that's the only way to possibly motivate and/or screw up a female character. Yes, so Jude goes home to confront the demons of his past blah blah blah, with his abusive father whom he tried to escape from his whole life, blah blah blah. Between some predictable and pedestrian plotting and a pretty hokey climax, this novel kinda feels like it ends just after it starts, like Hill had this as an idea for a short story and struggled in expanding it to a satisfying conclusion, feeling that it should be both Epic, supernatural and psychological all at the same time.
Also, this one kinda failed for me in a smaller and more unfair sense, in that the scare didn't really stay with me. In using the twist to absolve Jude of basically any blame, it loses the sense of inevitability and all-encompassing terror that horror can sometimes provoke. Nietzsche's line has been much abused in recent years but it's true: "When you look into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you." Hill creates a fine abyss but, as for the moment in which Jude must look into it, the novel coughs and dies.
Yet, for the incredibly memorable and creepy scenes in the beginning, I think Joe Hill is a massive talent. He has an incredibly interesting way of building character and scene, Jude, Georgia and Danny are all fascinating characters full of potential, well-drawn and intriguing, and Jude's empty rock star life is perfectly encapsulated in the visions of his dead band mates. He seems to introduce a bunch of Chekhov's guns that never come to very much - I was constantly waiting, for instance, for the guitar or the snuff film to have more significance that they originally had, but it never came. So I wish it could have all built to something more sustained and rewarding, but there's no denying Joe Hill's talent. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This book starts well, but then quickly deteriorates into a well-written but ultimately lifeless and icky little endeavour. The writing is brisk and cThis book starts well, but then quickly deteriorates into a well-written but ultimately lifeless and icky little endeavour. The writing is brisk and clean, but the whole thing was just a bit too British for me - and this is coming from someone who has lived in England her whole life. It's a dark and disturbing little novel, but it's utterly bloodless and restrained in a way that should be more effective, but also leaves it feeling toothless and contradictory, a psychological thriller that wants to be about sexual obsession and a descent into madness but feels almost jokingly middle-class.
In an attempt to keep everything harmonious, as well, Hancock has her characters behave in the most ridiculous ways. So, as the blurb says, Sonia kidnaps Jez by keeping him in the house, drugging him and lying to him. I don't consider myself a very streetwise person, but by the time I'd fallen into a druggy sleep several times, been tied up and being repeatedly told that I can't leave the house by a woman that seems more than a little unstable, would I really assume that it was in the name of a birthday party? Honest to God, I know Hancock tried to explain it by saying that Jez was sheltered and naive, but there's sheltered and naive and then there's apparently the type of fifteen-year-old that lacks even the most basic comprehensive skills and has never turned on a TV or read a newspaper. I assume it was an attempt to keep any blood or violence out of the novel, as Jez fighting back would've necessitated, but instead it just seemed ludicrous bordering on funny.
Speaking of which, the supposedly sexually charged flashbacks of Sonia and her obsession from the past, Seb, having sex, kissing and practicing a kind of thirteen-year-old version of BDSM or whatever were cringey rather than atmospheric. ("No sex, please, we're British!") Hancock's writing is definitely good, the pacing is quick and compelling, but the whole thing is just a vague type of icky, like a thin layer of sticky substance I want to wash off, instead of a deeply disturbing and intense experience. Sonia insists she's not violent, nor does she want to hurt Jez, but the total lack of introspection in her voice just leaves the thing feeling sort of half-baked and underdone....more
I am not the person to talk to about this book. It's...okay? Blah. It's not flowery or pretentious - it just is what it is: a book of short, often sweI am not the person to talk to about this book. It's...okay? Blah. It's not flowery or pretentious - it just is what it is: a book of short, often sweet stories about the different (but not all that different) lives of people in Dublin. I think my good rating might have more to do with the fact that I am insanely loaded down with work this week, and I kept looking at Joyce and thinking "uuuuugh" when I thought about reading it, because I thought it would inevitably turn out like "In Memoriam" last week - something I had no time to read and therefore had to half-read, while frantically flipping through the poem and trying to squeeze an essay out of it. But no. I sat down and read it all. Quick, riveting and pretty enjoyable. Though I can't tell if my relief is because, thank you God, it's over and I didn't have to kill myself to read it. ...more
The Lincoln Lawyer is a strange one for me. My feelings towards this book can be best summed up as - well, I was enamoured with it until I wa2.5 stars
The Lincoln Lawyer is a strange one for me. My feelings towards this book can be best summed up as - well, I was enamoured with it until I wasn't.
This was a VERY slow one for me - I read the first 60% in about a week, then I just...stopped. I took a HUGE break and I'm not even sure why. I got into it all right, and I liked Connelly's very matter-of-fact, direct, simple style...until I didn't. I don't really know what changed, but something did. Perhaps this book is just too long? The punchy, no-nonsense style works for a very intense, dramatic book with lots of twists and turns, but frankly this book had too many pages and too few twists and turns to sustain this kind of pace. Therefore, instead of feeling quick and explosive, it was a damp squib, utterly bloodless.
Essentially, it's a by-the-numbers legal thriller. The LA setting invested me to start with, but it's not remotely palpable beyond the odd name-drop of a place - "Boulevard", "Ventura" etc. The main character is a schlub with a conscience (of course he is) and, for all the blurb's promise of him being a "sleazy defence attorney", Connelly keeps everything very black and white by making his opponent, despite being a prosecutor, also a total sleaze and ensuring that, though Mickey does his job, he does it without any relish. He also doesn't do anything particularly controversial or dramatic. There is nothing original about The Lincoln Lawyer - sleazy rich boys, platonic prostitutes, an ex-wife he still loves, a daughter he never sees. You've seen all this before, and Connelly doesn't even seem to be TRYING to add anything new.
The fact that it says "Mickey Haller, #1" up there should already give this away - there's zero sense of danger. Sure, so Mickey occasionally appears like he might be up on a murder charge or that he's pissed off the wrong person, but he's not exactly going to die, go to prison or get disbarred. This is where the punchy style totally fell flat. It should have made the pages fly and instead it just robbed the weak and unoriginal plot of any emotional or dramatic impact. For instance, when Haller figures out (quickly, so this isn't going under spoiler tags) that Roulet isn't the "innocent guy" Haller thinks he is, I don't care, because Connelly didn't give me any reason to care about Roulet's innocence or guilt. It's just a standard legal story - Haller takes a case that should be simple, turns out it's not, somebody he loves dies, gets in too deep and then pulls himself out with the help of minor characters we've seen before.
Yet I can't quite drop the rating all the way because there was SOMETHING in those first pages that kept me turning them. There are good moments and I enjoyed the minor characters like Lorna (where did she go?!), Raul and Gloria. This seems like it's crying out for a film adaptation (I'm not surprised that there was one) because it seems to be begging actors to breathe life into the paper-flat characters, deliver the quick dialogue, set designers and directors to illuminate the Los Angeles setting and a half-decent scriptwriter to flesh out the basic plot. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for Connelly. ...more
I'm pretty sure that Gillian Flynn writes just for me.
I'm aware of how narcissistic that sounds, but hear me ou"Women love vulnerability. Most women."
I'm pretty sure that Gillian Flynn writes just for me.
I'm aware of how narcissistic that sounds, but hear me out: Sharp Objects is so full of things I love that it's impossible for me to properly, objectively judge it.
Like Gillian Flynn, I am obsessed with women who do Very Bad Things. Not in real life - I can't read about real-life killers - but in crime novels. This is especially difficult as crime fiction is, by and large, populated by women who are weak, spineless victims, either there to be raped/tortured/kidnapped/brutally murdered/fall in love with the troubled detective even though she is way out of his league and far more attractive and attentive than he is. If you absolutely loathe this trope, I feel confident in saying that you will like Sharp Objects. Somehow, somewhere, Gillian Flynn is linked to me and she knows that women like me exist - women who roll their eyes whenever the oh-so-hot, intelligent female lead fawns over the broken male detective and devotes herself to putting him back together/having great sex, who shudder through the pages of women being hoodwinked by killers and brutally tortured, who wince with the endless supply of misogynistic killer perspectives.
Sharp Objects is a beacon of extremely dark light in this stuffy genre. Camille Preaker, the washed-up journalist at the centre, is riddled with words that she cut onto her own skin. There is nothing attractive or aspirational about Camille's despair; though she is both pretty and broken, it's obvious that she is not one of those pretty broken women that also populate crime novels, damsels in distress for the male lead to save. There is also a cop, Richard, from Kansas investigating the murders at Windy Gap, and let's face it -- we all know that, at some point, they're going to wind up in bed together. But Flynn is no fool: there's no real blood in the relationship between Camille and Richard, they're both using each other, there are no cliches about their great sex or mad lust for each other.
Their relationship is also not particularly important. I am fascinated with dark and complex mother/daughter relationships and Flynn delivered the goods on this one, too. There's more than a hint of Southern gothic - though they're in Chicago - about the "bond" between Camille and Adora, which has become frayed and knotted by the death of Camille's younger sister, Marion, when she was thirteen, their huge rotting mansion and Camille's thirteen-year-old sister, Amma, a kind of Lolita parody. This is all about relationships between women. My favourite scenes were between the groups of women who were friends as teenage girls and have grown up into a bizarre clique of bitchy, hypocritical yet dead-on women, from Jackie and her gang of fifty-something boozers to Katie and her little group of sanctimonious, gossipy mothers. Their conversations have a superb rhythm and are full of intricacies and realism.
The best thing about Sharp Objects is the atmosphere. I love books set in small American towns - I'm obsessed with "Twin Peaks" and "American Gothic" for those reasons - and books set in less-exposed areas of America (i.e. not L.A., Boston or New York), which is why I'm obsessed with "The Killing." I also love the dusty, drab yet strangely quaint atmosphere of Windy Gap, full of totally bizarre yet realistic characters who loll around bars and big houses all day, being very cruel to one another and themselves. There is also something totally evocative yet oppressive about it, vivid and gritty. Creepy is the perfect word for Sharp Objects; it's one of those get-under-your-skin novels, and that it does. There is a kind of totality to Sharp Objects; from minor characters to the narcissistic and spoiled Meredith, girlfriend of the prime suspect, to her boyfriend (prime suspect mostly because of his un-masculine reaction to his little sister's brutal murder, i.e. crying) and the endless conversations of the little female cliques. Gillian Flynn seems totally devoted to her subject, and it's a joy to read.
It's not perfect, though. Perhaps more flawed than I'm willing to admit, because, as you can probably tell from the review, this is one of these books that hit me hard and give me just what I want. Gillian Flynn is a great writer, full of chilly restraint - (“Sometimes I think illness sits inside every woman, waiting for the right moment to bloom. I have known so many sick women all my life. Women with chronic pain, with ever-gestating diseases. Women with conditions. Men, sure, they have bone snaps, they have backaches, they have a surgery or two, yank out a tonsil, insert a shiny plastic hip. Women get consumed.”; "Sometimes I think I won't ever feel safe until I can count my last days on one hand.") but the plot is somewhat underdeveloped, despite the great characters and atmosphere.
The main meat of what happened to Camille's sister Marion was immediately obvious to me (view spoiler)[Munchausen's by Proxy, that is (hide spoiler)] so it annoyed me that it took Camille so long to figure out the same thing. Although Flynn genuinely surprised me with the final twist (view spoiler)[that Amma, not Adora, was behind the killings, (hide spoiler)], which was fitting and perfect. The epilogue felt rushed, with a lot of things crammed into few short pages. I would have liked to see more time spent on Camille's cutting because that was the only aspect of the novel that felt something like shock value to me - more, "oh, look how damaged my protaganist is!" than a genuine exploration of what it meant to be that damaged, if it makes sense, more like a character quirk (as though thousands of scars spelling out words were something 'quirky' and 'fun' like pink hair or hipster clothes). Still, I loved this book and it is highly recommended for anyone who is sick of formulaic crime novels.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more