Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn; The Submission by Amy Waldman; Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

I’ve had Gone Girl in my e-Reader for nearly a year; I’ve been saving it up as I heard it was such a great book.

Mmmmmm. It’s certainly fun to read, and it gallops along with lots of fun twists and turns, but is it great, exactly? Maybe it wasn’t fair to read it on the heels of Hilary Mantel’s book. John Grisham has great plots too, but once you’ve read it, you’re not going to read it again because you know what happens. That’s kind of how I felt about Gone Girl. Might make a great movie, but is it a great novel? I certainly won’t be reading it again and am kind of annoyed that I didn’t get it from the library. I think Grisham is a good comparison. The Pelican Brief is a good movie, no?

I like plot; I like speed, too. But I also like thoughtful writing and good language. I’m not saying that Gone Girl isn’t thoughtful, it’s just one-dimensional and didn’t give me the satisfaction of a brilliantly-written novel. So, fun to read but not what I was expecting given all the hoo-hah that’s been going on around this book. Plus, the characters are really hateful so there’s nobody to root for. You finish and think, Oh, for God’s sake.

The Submission by Amy Waldman deals with the jury selection of anonymously-submitted proposals for a 9/11 memorial. The winner turns out to be Muslim – nominally so, as he is an American-born architect who is very secular – but you can imagine. This is very well done. The characters are complex and real, the plot just unfolds naturally, uncontrived, and the writing is sharp. The idea is brilliant and I bet parts of this just wrote itself. (Ooo, I deserve the smack Amy Waldman would want to give me for that. Sorry! It’s a compliment!) It’s kind of depressing, of course. The anti-Muslim hysteria after 9/11 was not pretty and this book really reminds you of that time when people lost their minds and turned into bigots. All of a sudden you can see how the Holocaust happened, and how witch trials happened. Something weird happens to some people. Logic just flies right out the window, and takes with it compassion. Sad. Waldman does a good job with a character who is one of these people who use bigotry in the service of their grief, their anger. The Submission also reminded me of that documentary about the Dixie Chicks, Shut Up And Sing, after they made an antiwar statement and people went nuts. Do people forget what democracy is? Apparently they do and this book is a good reminder of that sad fact.

Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy began with A Discoverie of Witches and the second installment is called Shadow of Night. I borrowed Discoverie from the library this fall and enjoyed it well enough to download the second instalment. It’s well-researched, well-written, and if you liked the Twilight series and the Outlander series (Diana Gabaldon’s time-traveler books), you’ll like this. I liked both, particularly Outlander, I’m liking this, but it is what it is. I actually think Outlander is a better series (until the sixth book; my sister read them all one after the other and she abandoned the last book: “Ah, I’m starting to hate these people.”) and this is sort of Outlander with magic bells on. It’s fun.

The next book will hit a little heavier, I’m ready for it. I’ve got Jared Diamond’s new book, The World Until Yesterday, I have Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies, and another G.J. Meyer book called A World Undone, which is about the First World War, I believe. But Alan Bradley also has a new book out and I downloaded it immediately. I don’t know if I can keep back from that one. His books, if you haven’t read them already (and if not why not?) are wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.

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One response to “Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn; The Submission by Amy Waldman; Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

  1. I always go and download all (well, some- no one else on the planet can read at your pace) your recommendations! Great insight and I agree with Gone Girl. It was a fun read but not necessarily “brilliant” writing.