Archive for April, 2013

‘Gone Girl’ by Gillian Flynn

Amazon describes our April book as a ‘taut thriller’ and continues: ‘What are you thinking, Amy?’ The question I’ve asked most often during our marriage, if not out loud, if not to the person who could answer. I suppose these questions stormcloud over every marriage: ‘What are you thinking? How are you feeling? Who are you? What have we done to each other? What will we do?’ Just how well can you ever know the person you love? This is the question that Nick Dunne must ask himself on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary when his wife Amy suddenly disappears. The police immediately suspect Nick. Amy’s friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him. He swears it isn’t true. A police examination of his computer shows strange searches. He says they aren’t his. And then there are the persistent calls on his mobile phone. So what really did happen to Nick’s beautiful wife? And what was in that half-wrapped box left so casually on their marital bed? In this novel, marriage truly is the art of war…’
 
After finding ourselves in complete agreement last month, the members of Berwick book group were back on familiar ground this month.  Some of us, Martin for instance, were not at all ‘gone’ on Gone Girl. He writes:
‘Oh Dear, another disappointment. Is it me? I loved my journey with Harold Fry, but these people, Nick and Amy? I realy struggled to care what was happening to them but they were so shallow, their lives and values so alien I couldn’t be bothered so after about page 70 (I told you I tried) I skipped to the end to find Amy frames Nick for her non-murder, then unframes him. It is so daft I’m inventing words to describe it. Nick and Amy would fit right in with the crew from January’s book about the City. I found the clues to her treasure hunts particularly annoying and impenetrable, her habbit of emphasising things 3 times annoying and I resented having to put off Jennifer Worth’s sequel to “Call the Midwife” which I enjoyed hugely both as a book and a TV show. I love reading but not stuff like Gone Girl.’
 
Barbara, on the other hand, gave it a thumbs-up.

‘Given the genre, I didn’t expect or demand anything deep or meaningful from Gone Girl and I think it is unfair for readers to place either literary or moral expectations upon this kind of novel. I think, when a novel has had a great deal of hype, some readers are determined to take against it, however unreasonable their stance.  I thoroughly enjoyed the read and very much admired the expertise of the author. I found the characters convincingly written, particularly Amy, and the plot was compelling. I loved the way the author played with the reader throughout the first half, leading them up a very wrong path, and I thought the twist at that point was breathtaking.  After that, I continued to admire it although my only criticism is that the ending was, for me, a twist too far and stretched credibility somewhat.  Some readers seemed to think Flynn should have written an entirely different book, but I was more than happy with this one and in fact I have already started to read another by this author.’    

Janet has a different opinion about the ending.  Here’s her review:

‘I was looking forward to reading Gone Girl: it’s in my favourite genre (crime) and there’s been a real buzz on Twitter about it for months. And while I was reading it I was swept along by the story, wanting to know how on earth the situation between Nick and Amy was going to be resolved. The plot is clever –  although I saw the big twist coming –  as is the narrative technique of having not one but two unreliable narrators. However, the best way I can sum up my response to this book is I ‘admired’ it.

 My main criticism is that none of the characters is at all sympathetic. Amy and Nick are well-drawn and have strong voices, although this does diminish as the book progresses. However, I didn’t care what happened to them and at the end I felt they deserved each other. The police weren’t very bright or original and none of the peripheral characters stood out, bar Nick’s sister ‘Go’ for the simple reason that her name irritated me.

[spoiler alert!] Looking back, the plot had several inconsistencies and was just too convoluted (how do you collect a pregnant woman’s urine without her knowing?). If Amy was clever enough to plan such an audacious deception, it seemed unlikely that she could so easily be parted from her cash by a pair of drifters. And Desi’s death felt tacked on, as though because this is a crime novel it had to feature at least one murder. All that being said, I found the ironic ending very satisfying and can’t think how that could have been bettered. If I was reviewing this book on Amazon I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars.’

 

 
 
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‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ by Rachel Joyce

Apologies for the late appearance of this blog entry – I forgot to post. What can I say? March was a very busy month!

When Harold Fry nips out one morning to post a letter, leaving his wife hoovering upstairs, he has no idea that he is about to walk from one end of the country to the other. He has no hiking boots or map, let alone a compass, waterproof or mobile phone. All he knows is that he must keep walking. To save someone else’s life.

‘The odyssey of a simple man, original, subtle and touching’. – Claire Tomalin

‘From the moment I met Harold Fry, I didn’t want to leave him. Impossible to put down.’ – Erica Wagner, The Times

Our March read produced a rare response from the Berwick book group: everyone liked it!  We found it moving, evocative and a compelling read.  We all loved the complexity of the characters, and we appreciated the parallel journeys of Harold and his wife Maureen. For some of us, it edged towards saccharine at times – and the Berwick upon Tweed portrayed at the end of the novel is not the Berwick-upon-Tweed we know! – but those were the only criticisms in a sea of praise. 

After his complaint about the quality of recent book choices, Martin wrote: ‘I shall rant more often. After doubting the quality of our chosen books along comes one I absolutely love. A rivetting tale, stimulating, thought provoking, resonances with my experience of life and characters who I can actually like.

A brilliant exposition on how we allow our relationships to sour, how we lash out at those we love when we are hurt, how we hide our feelings and allow hurts to fester. None of these failings are sudden but incremental until they are overwhelming.

I was saddening but credible how Harold’s very individual efforts were hijacked by the self-serving and the media but heart warming how his wife and Rex were allowed to support each other and Harold without forming a sexual relationship. Friendship and human concern remained untainted. There was no mystical resolution, Harold was as tongue tied as the rest of us when confronted with Queenie in extremis but there was hope that no matter how deep or long an estrangement a relationship can be mended. More books of this quality please. ‘

 
 

About the book group

The Berwick Book Group meets on the first Tuesday of every month at the First Class Passenger Lounge on the platform of Berwick Train Station at 6.30pm.

If you would like more information about what the group is reading, please visit www.newwritingnorth.com/submit/join-berwick-book-group.

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