liz Jensen

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

A wife goes missing. A husband is blamed. Fingers are pointed all around. Every little gesture, every little moment, every bump on the road is minutely analyzed. And in the end what are we left with? A place where almost all relationships reach a dead end, where psychotic maniacs are a dime a dozen and no one is really likeable.

Published in 2012, Gone Girl is the third offering from author Gillian Flynn after Sharp Objects and Dark Places.

The story unfolds from the points of view of Nick Dunne and his wife Amy Elliott Dunne. The entire book is divided into three different parts.

The first part, Boy Loses Girl, I’d say is the ‘skeleton’ of the story. The second part, Boy Meets Girl, fills in on the gaps left by Boy Loses Girl. In the final part, Boy Gets Girl Back (or vice versa), we find the whole story standing in front of us with the skeleton grinning from underneath.

Boy Loses Girl is definitely the most intriguing part of the book. With Boy Meets Girl, the story becomes more of a straightforward thriller. Boy Gets Girl Back is basically a continuation of Boy Meets Girl. It didn’t change my perception of the characters in any way.

Gone Girl reminded me of The Ninth Life of Louis Drax by Liz Jensen and The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson. Two points of view, an unreliable narrator and close family members under clouds of suspicion just like The Ninth Life of Louis Drax and a rather disturbing first person narrative like The Killer Inside Me.

Most of the major characters in Gone Girl are irreparably damaged people. The amount of time they spend messing with each others minds is unbelievable. If I had to live like that, constantly analyzing and/or be analyzed, I would go crazy!

The characters are all kind of one note. The mean and manipulative ones are just that, mean and manipulative. The weak ones are weak and the good are good. Just because they smoke, drink or curse doesn’t mean that they are multi-dimensional. Characters like Andie are there just to make a plot point. They are not well fleshed out and are faintly annoying.

I like books with unreliable narrators. It lifts books up from banality and adds an interesting twist to the proceedings. Gone Girl gives us a very fiendish unreliable narrator.

By Boy Gets Girl Back I kind of got bored with all the twists that were supposed to shock me. They are all screwed up people with serious problems. So they will act whatever way they want to. I was no longer surprised.

The book’s easy to read, which is I suppose a pre-requisite for all bestsellers. But at least it’s not banal or straight out stupid. Gillian Flynn has a way with words. I’d be interested in her other works Sharp Objects and Dark Places.

Overall, Gone Girl is a good psychological thriller. Good as an easy summer read.

Top 10 Tuesday: Top Ten Favorite Books I Have Read During The Lifespan Of My Blog

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created & hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Today’s top 10 is all about the books that I have loved ever since I’ve started the blog. For me that means books I’ve loved since March 2011. The list is by no means conclusive and the name & the order may change anytime. Click on the name of the books for my reviews.

1.   Detective Stories. Philip Pullman – 

Detective Stories is a 1998 collection of fifteen short stories and two brainteasers from the detective genre compiled by Philip Pullman.

The book tries to cover the entire detective genre right from Arthur Conan Doyle to Andrew Vachss. Pullman has tried to make a perfect combination of vintage and contemporary stories and he succeeds to a large degree. This collection is mainly aimed at younger readers but adults can equally enjoy it (as I did). Detective Stories is a true treat!

2.  Very Good, Jeeves. P.G. Wodehouse – 

Very Good, Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse is a collection of eleven short stories. All of these stories feature Bertie Wooster and his trusted butler Jeeves.

As it is I am really fond of short stories and the Jeeves short stories are definitely right up my alley.

I really enjoyed reading Very Good, Jeeves. It’s a pity it was a library book and I had to return it. This is the kind of book that I’d like to re-read in the future.

3.   Rebecca. Daphne Du Maurier –

For me, Rebecca is about Rebecca. Long after the book ends her laughing, beautiful, cruel face stays vividly alive. She wins, as always, even in death.

4.  The Diary of a Nobody. George Grossmith – 

The Diary of a Nobody first appeared in Punch magazine from 1888 – 89. It was published in book form in 1892.

The writing is lucid. Many have called it dated. I didn’t find it so. This is a very easy to read book. I managed to finish it in just a day.

I know this is supposed to be a satire on the snobbery and the dullness of the middle class folks but I felt rather sorry for Mr. Pooter. Sure, he is boring and old-fashioned but he is a good, honourable man who is just trying to do the best he can. My sympathy certainly lies with him.

5.    The Ninth Life of Louis Drax. Liz Jensen – 

The Ninth Life of Louis Drax by Liz Jensen was published in 2004. It was Jensen’s fifth novel.

The Ninth Life of Louis Drax is one strange story. What happens in the story is not wholly un-guessable but whatever it is, it is twisted. Overall, this is an enjoyable psychological thriller.

6.  The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Haruki Murakami – 

Sprawling, odd, complicated, scary, these are the words that come to my mind when I say the name, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. I tried to keep an open mind and take it all in. But still at times I had to stop and think,

‘What on earth is this?’

7.  A Midsummer Night’s DreamWilliam Shakespeare – 

I love Shakespeare’s comedies. The witty dialogues, the general air of light heartedness and above all the wickedly funny plots suit my taste quite well. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is so far my favourite among these.

8.   The Railway ChildrenEdith Nesbit – 

Even though I might have enjoyed children’s classics such as The Railway Children more if I really were a child, I do still find joy in them. Other than a few parts (like the chapter The Pride of Perks) I have greatly enjoyed reading The Railway Children.

9.   The Old Man in the CornerBaroness Orczy – 

Today Baroness Orczy is mostly remembered as the creator of the Scarlet Pimpernel but she also wrote quite a few mysteries. The Old Man in the Corner (1909) is possibly the best known among her mysteries.

The end of the central narrative left me fairly shocked. I really didn’t see this coming.

Overall, I enjoyed The Old Man in the Corner. I would definitely want to read more of Baroness Orczy’s mysteries.

10.   The Fault in Our Stars John Green – 

I am not much into contemporary books. I am just not comfortable with modern fiction though I do try to read at least one or two each year. Also, this novel belongs to a genre that I am not much of a fan of, Young Adult or YA lit.

No, I didn’t need a boxful of tissues as many of my fellow readers said that I would. Books rarely make me cry (Goodbye, Mr. Chips being one of the very few exceptions). So, it’s not really the book’s fault. But yes I liked The Fault in Our Stars much better than I thought I would.

My Top Ten Books 2011

I am normally very sure about what I like and what I don’t. So, doing top 10 best reads is usually a cinch for me. But last year was such a whirlwind! Also, my reading experiences were a bit of a mixed bag. There were a lot of books that I didn’t love but didn’t hate either. Thus, putting together a top 10 was more difficult than it usually is. Anyway here is my Top 10 Books for 2011 with excerpts from my reviews (Click on the titles for the full reviews),

1. 

Detective Stories. Philip Pullman.

The collection starts with The Speckled Band by Arthur Conan Doyle. The story was first published in the Strand Magazine in 1892. Panic grips a lonely woman when she starts to hear the same late night whistling noise that her twin sister spoke of in her dying moments…

2.

Very Good, Jeeves. P.G. Wodehouse.

Jeeves and the Song of Songs (1929) has Bertie right in the middle of Tuppy Glossop’s tangled love life as he is forced to sing at a concert for Beefy Bingham. Anyone who has seen the 1990 series Jeeves and Wooster will appreciate this story even more. I recently watched a re-run of the show (I am too young to remember its original run) and thought  Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry were absolutely marvellous in it!

 3.

 
Rebecca. Daphne Du Maurier.

For me, Rebecca is about Rebecca. Long after the book ends her laughing, beautiful, cruel face stays vividly alive. She wins, as always, even in death.

4.

The Diary of a Nobody. George Grossmith.

I found several parts of the book quite funny. Like Lupin recklessly driving a pony-trap and causing general havoc in the streets while Mr. Pooter being seated at the back has to bear the wrath of  ‘a gang of roughs in a donkey-cart’. Or Mr. Cummings becoming ill and being angry at his friends for not reading about his illness in ‘The Bicycle News’. And Mr. Pooter getting annoyed after having to eat the same blanc-mange repeatedly.

5.

A Short History of Nearly Everything. Bill Bryson.

I really liked how Bryson talks of the people behind the science. The lives of known and unknown people behind some of the greatest discoveries come alive through Bryson’s narrative.

6.
The Ninth Life of Louis Drax. Liz Jensen.

Louis Drax is an accident prone boy. Ever since he was a baby he has been involved in more than his fair share of near fatal accidents. But so far they have all been just that, ‘nearly’ but not wholly ‘fatal’. On his ninth birthday, however, things may change for the worse. Louis may never come out alive from this ‘accident’.

7.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Haruki Murakami.

Sprawling, odd, complicated, scary, these are the words that come to my mind when I say the name, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. I tried to keep an open mind and take it all in. But still at times I had to stop and think,

‘What on earth is this?’

8.

The Inimitable Jeeves. P. G. Wodehouse.

In Introducing Claude and Eustace and Sir Roderick Comes to Lunch, Bertie’s cousins, Claude and Eustace, come home with a top hat, several cats and a Salmon. Meanwhile, Sir Roderick Glossop, the noted nerve specialist, comes to lunch and questions Bertie’s sanity.

9.
Mrs Lirriper’s Lodgings. Charles Dickens.

After Mrs. Lirriper’s drink loving husband perishes in an accident, Mrs. Lirriper starts to take in lodgers to make ends meet and also to pay off Mr. Lirriper’s debts. Mrs Lirriper’s Lodgings describes some of her experiences as a lodge keeper… I liked how Mrs. Lirriper keeps addressing the reader as ‘My Dear’, as though she knows us all and is having an ordinary conversation with us. It is sort of comforting somehow.

&

 
Mrs Lirriper’s Legacy. Charles Dickens.

Mrs. Lirriper’s Legacy is a worthy conclusion to the story of Mrs. Lirriper.  The hopefulness of the first book comes to fruition in the second one.

10.

It’s Only a Movie: Alfred Hitchcock – A Personal Biography. Charlotte Chandler.

I like the cover of the book. It is striking. As I read this book en route to my workplace many people asked me what book I was reading and they seemed genuinely interested in it.

Five Best Books: (Recovering from) Tragedy

In this week’s 5 Best Books we are asked to list our Five Best Books: (Recovering from) Tragedy. It’s a tribute to the tragic day that changed all of our lives forever, September 11th.

I try not to read too many tragedies. Life is complicated and filled with disappointments and worries as it is. I try to take away something good from everything I read. Cassandra’s idea about listing books that are not mere tragedies but are books that can teach us something about recovering from it really appealed to me. So, here are some books that contain tragedies but have people who recover from them too. At least they have some glimmer of hope in them.

1.  Great Expectations by Charles Dickens Losing your friends, losing yourself and then finding out it was all in vain, that’s the tragedy of the protagonist Pip’s life. Miss Havisham’s tragedy is another aspect of the story. Her tragedy eats her up and her anger at herself and at the world destroys not only her own but also the happiness of those who come in contact with her. In the end Pip does manage to recover some of his former happiness and does find some solace. Maybe it is too little, too late but at least he realizes who his friends are and who he truly is. 

2.  Seize the Day by Saul BellowOne of my favourite reads from last year.The story explores one day in the life of an unemployed man, Tommy Wilhelm, as he tries to reconnect with the world and recover his lost dignity. This is not a happy book and it doesn’t really have a happy ending. But at least Wilhelm is forced to come face to face with himself. He finally stops running away from reality. In my opinion, that counts for something.

3.  The Ninth Life of Louis Drax by Liz JensenA story about a child lying comatose on a hospital bed after a near fatal fall can never be a happy book. The police’s suspicion that one of his family members might have done the deed makes the book even more disturbing. Nevertheless, the truth behind little Louis’s painful home life, when exposed, finally brings about some sense of peace and closure, even if it comes at a terrible price.

4.  The Book Thief by Markus ZusakThe scene where Liesel loses her foster father made my heart wring. Her survival even after so many tragedies is the best aspect of the book.

5.  Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe by George Eliot After losing his faith in humanity, Silas Marner becomes less than human, more of a machine than a man. But he is rescued by a little girl who suddenly walks into his life and firmly guides him back to light. Even though I have ambiguous feelings towards the book in general, Silas’s relationship with his adopted daughter Eppie truly touched my heart.

The Friday 56

The Friday 56 is a bookish meme hosted by Freda’s Voice.

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56.
*Find any sentence that grabs you.
*Post it.
*Link up at Freda’s site

Today’s sentence comes from The Ninth Life of Louis Drax by Liz  Jensen, a strange twisted story.

“I used to sleepwalk, as a child.”