Monday, July 16, 2012

While You Wait for Gone Girl

I just finished Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl, the plotty thriller that everyone and their brother has a hold on this summer. No spoilers: it's as good as they say it is, keep it on your list! Here are some lesser-known titles to tide you over until your hold arrives.

Last year's must-read plot twist novel was Before I Go to Sleep by S. J. Watson. Reminiscent of Memento, the main character wakes up every morning missing most of her memory. She sees a forty-something in the mirror, but the last thing she remembers is being a twenty-something college student. This is not her beautiful house, and certainly not her beautiful husband. If you haven't read it yet, now is the perfect chance to peer into her diary as she tries to piece together the missing years. Read on for more ominous thrillers!

Jennifer McMahon, like Flynn, writes mysteries about troubled female characters who are often in over their heads, and always know more than they're letting on. Try Promise Not to Tell; with its middle-aged narrator forced to care for an aging mother, it has some strong echoes in Gone Girl.

Mary Gaitskill writes short stories and novels about the same kind of troubled female characters; any of the ones we have on shelf should get under your skin in a very Gillian Flynn-esque way.

Did you catch We Need to Talk About Kevin while it was at the Loft Cinema, or read the Lionel Shriver novel it was based on? Just like with Gone Girl, I don't want to give away spoilers, but it's another dark, challenging novel that allows the author to spend time musing about universal human truths in between episodes of monstrosity.

Horns, like Gone Girl, opens with a man accused of murdering his spouse. For fans of plot twists and dark humor, I can't recommend Joe Hill's latest novel highly enough. (Yes, I admit, I stayed up all night reading it.) If you enjoy it, his other work is just as good. He's Stephen King's son, and in my own humble opinion, shares his father's gift for unearthing fears, while improving on his literary style.

And here are a few more options to round out your list: Tana French and Kate Atkinson are often suggested as Gillian Flynn read-alikes. For that matter, Gillian Flynn's two earlier novels, Sharp Objects and Dark Places, are definitely worth a gander, although due to Gone Girl's popularity, there's a bit of a wait for those, too. Augusten Burroughs' most recent work of creative nonfiction/biography, A Wolf at the Table, has a lot of the quiet menace in the background that I especially like about Flynn's style. I'll be blogging soon about Matt Ruff's alternate history sci-fi novel The Mirage -- although it's very different from Gone Girl, it shares a lot of similar elements (mind-bending plot twists, adults with aging parents, musings on a troubled marriage, and sharp social satire), and I have a feeling that a lot of people who enjoy Flynn would love Ruff, too.

Finally, did you know that the library also carries DVDs? Check out The Talented Mr. Ripley (based on a creepily excellent book by Patricia Highsmith), Memento (based on Christopher Nolan's brother's short story, so it also has a literary tie), Inception, the BBC's new Sherlock, Veronica Mars, and the Japanese classic Rashomon, if you'd like some quality viewing that shares Gone Girl's plot twists, darkness, and multiple (conflicting) points of view.

Happy (or terrifying!) reading,

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