Gone Girl

The line, “I’m a big fan of the lie of omission,” (said by possible wife killer Nick) perfectly sums up author Gillian Flynn’s writing in Gone Girl. Her prose style is compulsively readable and enjoyable, but the reader is quick to learn that not everything is as it seems. Flynn has packed enough unpredictable twists and turns into this genius novel to keep any reader full engaged to the very last page.

The story opens with Nick discovering that his wife has gone missing. Quickly the police are involved and all the clues seem to point to Nick as the culprit. As we follow Nick’s attempts to find his wife (did he really kill her?), we also follow her diary entries from the previous years that tell the story of her and Nick’s relationship. Amy comes off as a great wife who has recently been stuck in a souring relationship (but did Nick really kill her?).

It’s not long before we realize that we can’t trust Nick (he tells us in almost every chapter that he’s lying about things), but there is also something that doesn’t quite sit right with Amy’s narrative either (and when you start part two, you’ll know why). Flynn has created two deeply flawed characters that you concurrently sympathize with and despise.

Though this novel is classified as a mystery/thriller, it’s truly a character-driven story about a married couple at the darkest time of their lives. Flynn’s pacing and plotting of the story are perfect, always giving enough to advance the story but without revealing everything. She also has a gift for description that’s concise and incisive.

This book is definitely one of the greatest books of 2012. I highly urge all of you to read it.

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Canada

Protagonist Dell Parsons states in the very opening lines, “First, I’ll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later.” Author Richard Ford lets the reader know in advance that this book isn’t about the actual events so much as the psychology surrounding these crimes. It’s a bit of a risky move, because Dell’s slow and introspective narration makes many of the book’s passages excessively tedious.

Dell’s parents are the ones who, in an act of desperation, rob a bank (and not very successfully). Dell spends the first half of the book describing his family and how they reached this point. Once his parents are in jail, Dell is whisked across the border into Canada by a friend of his mother’s. She delivers Dell to her brother and unintentionally puts him in the care of yet another criminal.

But Canada—a boring and unremarkable title—is not about the action of the plot but the motivation behinds those actions. Some of Ford’s writing is reminiscent of John Irving (especially his 2009 novel Last Night in Twisted River) with many instances of foreshadowing and repetition of phrases. Ford also presents some very intriguing thematic elements (that I’m sure book clubs will get a kick out of discussing). But the naïveté of Dell—as he addresses and examines those elements—grows tiresome, especially when it’s combined with future Dell’s narration and justification.

There are definitely some gems in Canada, and the overall themes in the book give it a place in literature. It just requires too much trudging through the duller parts of the book to make this a truly spectacular novel.

P.D. James Brings DEATH TO PEMBERLEY While Breathing New Life Into Jane Austen’s Beloved Characters

Six years after the events of Pride & Prejudice, Elizabeth Darcy is throwing the annual Lady Anne Ball and everything is going smoothly. But, as close friends and family are celebrating the night before, her sister Lydia unexpectedly bursts into Pemberley screaming that her husband Wickham is dead. So begins the latest work of crime fiction by master writer P.D. James.

Turns out, Wickham isn’t dead; but he is found holding the bloody corpse of his friend Captain Denny in the middle of the woods. Darcy himself is quickly involved and stays involved throughout the investigation and trial of Wickham. The novel gives a very interesting look into the British legal system of the time. And James gives some very Dickensian twists to our favorite Austenite characters.

Many secrets abound in this tale, but James juggles them easily while also seamlessly introducing us to some of the other new characters that didn’t exist in Pride & Prejudice. (Austen fans will also enjoy the few moments when characters from other Austen books are fleetingly referred to.)

Although some parts of the book seem to drag, know that everything will be resolved in Elizabethan fashion—in other words, 3-page-long monologues delivered in the final chapters will reveal all.  And if, in your course of guessing whodunit, you begin to suspect lycanthropic involvement (Full moons! Mysteriously ill people!), then you have merely read too many supernatural books. Don’t worry; this isn’t Pride & Prejudice & Zombies (although that book is also really good, just in a different way).

Death Comes to Peberley is great way to revisit old friends and see what they’ve done with their lives. James creates believable futures for Austen’s characters while also reexamining their choices made in P&P. Just be warned, Austen fans, that after reading this book you will want to revisit Austen’s classics.