Actually, it’s not a beach bag, simply what would be in a hypothetical beach bag if I was to read at the beach as opposed to the lake, where comfortable, non-sandy, tree-shaded chairs abound. I had read Home, by Toni Morrison, the weekend before, but last weekend was for Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. And mind you, I’m no formal book reviewer, simply a woman who reads books and has friends who ask for my thoughts.
So here are my thoughts. Both books were strong and skillfully written. Each was dark – one offering a glimpse of a shameful time in American history, the other exposing a marriage between two seriously damaged people. Do I recommend them to my friends? Yes to the first, a qualified yes to the second. Let me explain.
I’ve always been a Toni Morrison fan; I particularly adored Beloved and The Bluest Eye. Reading these books was a journey for me, painful at so many times, but oh so worth the trip. Morrison’s writing is a work of art, exquisite from topic to pacing to prose. So I expected a lot from Home – a big mistake there, expectations. Home is different. Perhaps because the protagonist is male, I didn’t feel the same emotional intensity as I did reading those earlier books, but I certainly felt something. I liked the characters – a Korean War vet who is very slowly emerging from the horror of the war, and the little sister who has always been his touchstone to humanness. I loved the theme of overcoming adversity through sheer force of will. And I loved the writing. Once I gave up on expectations and simply enjoyed, I was fully on board. Home is another Toni Morrison gem, capturing time and place with prose that is at once resonant and blunt. This book has stayed with me; I think of it still, perhaps because it ends on such a note of hope.
I didn’t feel that kind of hope in Gone Girl. The book started at a high point and went steadily downhill the more I learned about the crime – and I use the word crime in its most broad sense. Mind you, I don’t love murder mysteries, and Gone Girl is that. But even aside from violence, I had trouble with the central characters. Okay, Barbara, you don’t have to like them to appreciate their stories. I can’t tell you how many times I said that as I read. But I found these characters sad. Sad.
That said, I couldn’t put the book down! I was riveted to the plot twists and turns – this, even after I knew the ending. (Sorry, but I’m one of those who reads the last page when the suspense is too great.) Gone Girl is brilliantly plotted, skillfully written from alternating POVs, and perfectly paced. This is a modern book, not only in format and content, but in language. I was definitely in the minds of a husband and wife in their mid-thirties and early forties in 2012. Indeed, the characters are so fully drawn that, by the end of the book, I knew them intimately. I didn’t like them. But I did know them, which deepened my appreciation of the psychological insights Ms. Flynn shared.
I read Gone Girl in a single day, definitely the way to go, though I was reading ‘til midnight. I found it edgy and clever, a cliff-hanger at a dozen different spots. Do I recommend it? If you like intricately-layered psychological thrillers, yes.
Have you read either of these books? Do you agree? Disagree? Want to add a thought or two?