Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

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Oh boy. Where to start?

It’s fitting I’m writing this review on Halloween as the true horror of today is just the amount of people that seem to be obsessed with this novel and it’s film (although I get it slightly with the film as it’s by David Fincher).

The problem with this book, for me, wasn’t the plot or the narrative — I actually found them quite enjoyable, albeit somewhat predictable (c’mon, it wasn’t THAT hard to figure out at least half of what would happen by, like, the first couple of chapters/diary entries/whatever they should be referred to). The problem I have with ‘Gone Girl’ is the writing and the characters.

Personally, I couldn’t distinguish much difference between the prose used for Nick’s narration and the prose used in Amy’s diary entries and the real-life Amy; both just felt kind of sloppy and overly cynical. For the first part of the novel I just wanted to shake Nick and tell him to stop sulking around, get over himself and actually try writing online. Like, it’s not that bad, is it? (IS IT?). I never found Amy likeable; I rather favoured with that girl’s opinion in the weird cabin thing when she basically said Amy seemed like a “spoilt,” rich and privileged girl — which she is. She and Nick are completely unreliable and un-likeable narrators, and I get that this is Flynn’s intention, but it didn’t work for me. Rather than feeling pure hatred and detest towards Amy for what she did to Nick and Desi, or to Nick for FUCKING STAYING WITH HER(?!), I just felt a spark of annoyance, and then awareness at the manipulation the author was doing, and once I felt this feeling it stayed with me for the rest of the novel. Instead of focusing on the narrative, which – don’t get me wrong – is intriguing and original, I was focused on the fact the author was manipulating me. I couldn’t get drawn in because my brain was too busy analysing what and who the author wanted me to hate.

The biggest disappointment for me, though, were the characters, particularly the women in the novel. First of all, I felt as if none of the characters could stand on their own; they all seemed like cardboard cutouts. If Amy were to have died, what would Nick do? What would he have left? His whole world revolves around Amy, and the same with her. Of course the only way for the plot to progress was for Amy to run to a man, of course Amy couldn’t actually function or think properly without a man, specifically Nick, with her. I’ll practise the same test on Amy: if Nick had died, what would Amy have left? What would her world be? It just doesn’t work.

The other female characters in the novel weren’t represented well either. Perhaps this is due to the lens we’re forced to view them through, but once again, this didn’t work for me. The police woman, and almost all side characters, didn’t have a life outside of their role to play to the plot (this also goes for Andie and the TV hosts etc. etc.). Nick’s sister, Margot, is the closest representation to a good female representation I can think of in the novel, yet this representation is still flawed – she is often referred to in a way that suggests she’s like ‘one of the guys,’ as if masculinity = likeableness.

I’ve read a lot of reviews criticising Flynn for writing a dislikable female character, but this is where I disagree. I commend Flynn on writing a dislikable lead female, because if women are ever going to be represented as good as men in mainstream media, then we can’t just have likeable characters, we need the whole spectrum – just like men have.

I wish I could have liked this novel, because everyone who does is very passionate and protective of it, but it just didn’t work for me. The characters were too one dimensional, the writing didn’t engage me, and, while the narrative is good, it just didn’t cut it.

Is it a coincidence that it’s getting closer and closer?

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WARNING: if you haven’t seen Les Diaboliques, then go away and watch it right now and come back. Seriously.

Okay, now that all of the people who have seen this film are here I can provide an extremely accurate reconstruction of my reaction to the ending: OH MY GOD?! WHAT? *lots of incoherent words, eyes bulging, me standing up from my chair and shaking my head in confusion.*

The film begins by introducing us to the boarding school, which is run by a sadistic headmaster, Michael Delassalle (played by Paul Meurisse), and his wife Christina (Vera Clouzot). We soon discover the headmaster has a mistress (Nicole Horner, played by Simone Signoret), and quickly the wife and mistress devise a plan to kill Delassalle so they can escape from him, and Christina can be in control of the boarding school again (it’s all funded by her, anyway).

Long story short: Christina gets kind of annoying because she’s like ‘oh I’ll do it let’s go’ and then two seconds later is like ‘wait, no, let’s not do it,’ but considering she was preparing to murder her husband all while being ill, I’ll let her off. This also makes her character more dimensional and realistic because I think that’s exactly how I would’ve reacted. Eventually they do it (by driving a flat that Nicole is a tenant of and then calling the husband/jerk/asshole to come to the flat) and it’s awesome and everything you weren’t expecting and the narrative just gets more and more intricate and delicate and then BAM. The ending.

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“Surprise, bitch. I bet you thought you’d seen the last of me.”

I actually quite admire Nicole Horner for her ruthlessness; she played being the supportive friend very well and fooled me and Christina and everyone in the world.

However, because there are a million reviews of this film on the Internet, I’m not going to bother writing and analysing the ending and the build up to it, as I’m sure there’s enough in-depth reviews on this out there (Rogert Ebert, duh). So instead, I’m just going to analyse it as a whole film and hope this doesn’t come up sounding like an essay for school.

With the release of Gone Girl still looming over us all, thrillers, whodunits and plot twist films seem to be making a come back. But, this film is probably the best one I’ll ever see. It’s Gone Girl, but Gone Right (nudge, nudge). Les Diaboliques manages to create a raw, completely unexpected and intricate narrative without substituting the shots or depth of characters or score for it.

The three main characters are all multi-faceted and provide the narrative something. But, it’s not just these three that prove to be more than cardboard cutouts of people; the supporting characters also stand alone, for example the wife and husband: they could easily have a whole film dedicated to themselves — from the husband’s need for silence and the wife’s love for listening to the radio, it’s clear to see these are characters that have been thought about.

The shots have depth, too. They are suggestive, interesting and completely draw the watcher in. They add to the experience of the shock factor of the film and prove to show that cinema is art.

One of my favourite sequence of shots from this film, and perhaps every film I’ve watched, is towards the end when Christina is running through the school, and the shadows and beams of light mix showing her state of mind: reality mixed with the paranoia that darkness brings.

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It’s clear too how and where Hitchock drew inspiration from the cinematography and directorial skills for Psycho. We see the classic drain shots, the voyeuristic complexities brought to audiences in the bathroom, and the shadows.

Les Diaboliques is intriguing, original, and most importantly, a vital pioneer for the surge in psychological horror films.

"Do not be evil! Do not destroy the interest that could take your friends to this movie. Do not tell them what you saw. Thank you.”

“Do not be evil! Do not destroy the interest that could take your friends to this movie. Do not tell them what you saw. Thank you.”

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Picture of Donna Tartt via Huffington Post.

Picture of Donna Tartt via Huffington Post.

Most of the people who I know (from goodreads, of course) who have read this novel and have been disappointed with it say it’s because it was a mystery, and they didn’t like the way the author wrote about mystery, or they were expecting something else since it’s been held in the ~modern classic~ light.

I would like to address this by saying:
1) Mystery novels are just as worthy as the modern classic title as any other genre/non-genred novel. The genre/demographic of the book does not actually matter, what matters is the writing, how people connect and the story that is being told.
2) Donna Tartt’s writing style is one of the best I have ever read (I know this may not seem like a high accolade considering the amount of books I’ve read in comparison to someone who works at The NewYorker, but whatever).
3) Technically, this book *isn’t* a mystery.

The author gives away what a typical mystery novel would hold onto for the whole novel, at the beginning of the novel — before we even get to know any of the characters.

The very fact she keeps you engaged for the first 300-400 pages of this book shows what a skilful writer she is, as most writers would not be able to keep an audience engaged waiting for a murder to happen while knowing who it’s going to be, along with the aftermath of finding out who did it.

The book is set in three parts: ‘Book One,’ ‘Book Two,’ and ‘Epilogue.’ I found ‘Book One’ to be the most enjoyable out of all of them, as I really loved being introduced to this new, weird world of College, being in the mind of Richard Papen, and watching his mental state (kind of?) decline as the novel progresses. It was also really interesting to experience both sides of being outside of the Greek/Classic/Literary snob group and being inside at the same time, as it suggests perspectives and the role this plays in relationships, something which continued throughout the novel with Richard going back to that Californian girl (forgot her name) and her friends, getting some more realistic opinions and reminding readers that these characters are really weird and odd and unordinary and it just makes it more wonderful.

Personally, I wouldn’t want to know someone like Henry and Bunny, but, c’mon these characters are so rich and multi-faceted and holding so much depth it’s ridiculous to deny you don’t love them sheerly for this fact. This also reminds me that loads of people are calling these characters ‘pretentious,’ but I personally don’t think they are.

I’ve been stalking Matt Zoller Seitz’s Twitter recently, and he’s been having discussions about filmmakers constantly being called pretentious purely for the fact they care about their work. He also talked about how the person saying this stems from the fact they don’t understand and can’t grasp the concept of what the director is doing. I think the same thing can be applied to the characters in this novel, as they are hard characters to understand and their motives are quite ambiguous, but it’s so obvious Donna Tartt is doing this all on purpose because she is working her readers to understand the novel. This isn’t a book that’s just meant to be ‘read.’ It’s supposed to be thought about and discussed and re-read.

The only criticism I have of this novel is that I found chapters 7 and the beginning of 8 a bit boring, but in the grand scheme of things they were necessary for the novel and added to the characters’ richness.

There a million other things I could say about this novel, but I would just go on and on and on and on, so I’ll leave you with two things:

1) Thank you, Donna Tartt, for writing this book.
2) Read. This. Book.

All this happened, more or less

ACH! Awkward new beginnings. Where to start? Well, my name is Sinead, I am perpetually single and I’ve made this blog to talk about films, books and stuff in pop culture/the world.

I’m aware for the, like, first few years of this blog it’s going to be really unsuccessful, but that’s okay because it’s probably best people don’t read my angst and hormone fuelled opinions until I am out of that period and can join everyone in chuckling over my poor, poor adolescent self while swirling a glass of wine in my hand (I hate myself for writing this).

ANYWAY, I supposed I should say stuff I’m into? Books-wise I adore with all my heart and soul and entire existence Dostoevsky. If he was alive and 17-18 years old I’d TOTALLY date him if y’know what I’m saying. I also love Virginia Woolf (A Room of One’s Own = A MILLION HEART EYE EMOJIS) and RookieMag is my bible. With films I can never write down what I love because it either sounds ridiculously pretentious or way too shallow, so let’s go for a happy medium and say Wes Anderson. I do really really want to expand the directors I watch, though. I just feel really ignorant and closed off, yet I’m a film! student!

Basically, in short this blog (such a bad word) is going to be reviews/criticisms/discussions of stuff I wanna talk about.