I recently finished reading Dark Places by Gillian Flynn.
Ever since I read Gone Girl, I have been impressed with Flynn’s master command of prose, specifically in the first person voice. Dark Places was no exception to what I had come to expect from Gone Girl: a compelling first person voice, word play, and intricate unlikeable characters.
First person has always been something that I’ve not been a big fan of. Sometimes it feels like I’m reading someone’s poorly written journal (and if it’s in the present tense, I’m even more confused because I don’t process my immediate life in that way), but Flynn writes a first person voice that is utterly compelling to me. I haven’t quite figured out the secret, but I definitely want to read more of her technique, even if I’m not a huge fan of her plots.
The word play aspect is closely associated with one of the reasons her first person voice is so good. In the words of Humpty Dumpty, Flynn can make words behave. I can’t remember which writer advised this, but she is very good at using one strong word instead of writing in lavish, wandering prose. And not only that, she uses words that aren’t normally associated with what she is trying to describe, resulting in forcing the reader to view common, everyday objects in a new way that lingers with them, that gives a unique flavor and texture to the prose that is unforgettable.
Even though I’m not a huge fan of her plots, I do have to bow to her ability to write utterly unlikeable characters with whom I find myself invested. Libby Day reminded me a lot of myself. Her executive dysfunction, her depression, her meanness, her selfishness, are all things I’ve seen in myself. This kind of averageness is not something I’ve seen in a lot of the literature I’ve read (admittedly, I read primarily sci-fi — both Gone Girl and Dark Places are a bit of a departure from my normal fair) but it’s something I crave.
To be honest, I wasn’t interested in the plot at all–but then plots have always been of secondary importance to me, so it wasn’t something that bothered me very terribly. That said, I’ve noticed something in both Gone Girl and Dark Places: both narratives featured false rape accusations. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this, but it has left me feeling vaguely unsettled. I’m interested to see if the other novel I want to read by Flynn, Sharp Objects, features similar themes.