I enjoy surprises, like when my friend, Stacie, comes to town unexpectedly and asks to meet for breakfast, when my mother announces she’s keeping the kids all night or when my son remembers to put the toilet seat down. It’s the little things, amiright?
I like literary surprises too. When a book has a twisty ending, a character goes rogue and does something wacky OR when a female author doesn’t write like a typical female author. For the latter, may I direct you to the wildly popular author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn.
Now, before you go all, “that’s incredibly sexist,” on me, everybody just calm down. Let’s just take a beat. What is it the kids are saying these days, “IMHO?” Which always makes me think of IHOP ’cause I love me some pancakes but it actually means, “in my humble opinion” so that’s what this is, my pancakes, I mean, my opinion.
In my experience with women’s fiction I’ve noticed a certain cadence, a particular style, even when the subject matter is gritty there is still an underlying sensitivity. Scenes are constructed differently, dialogue is softer and intimate moments invariably contain way more cuddling. Men tend to write in a more no-nonsense way, with a certain swagger. Aside from Nicholas Sparks, who is clearly in touch with his inner chick, male authors typically have rough edges and they’re not afraid to use the dirty language, even in casual conversation.
So, after reading some of my favorite female authors including Beth Hoffman, Kathryn Stockett, Heather McElhatton, Jennifer Weiner, Jodi Picoult, etc., I was a little blown away when I finished Gone Girl. Yes, I know, the novel is a year old this month and I actually devoured it a few months ago but now I’m reading Ms. Flynn’s older books. This week I finished her second offering, Dark Places.
Gillian’s writing style has been described as, “riveting, chilling, slick, razor-sharp, hard-flinch and intense.” In Gillian’s novels, none of the characters are running through a field of dewy flowers holding hands. And if they do, the happy couple will end up tripping over a dead body that has been disemboweled by wild life.
At book club one night we were discussing Gone Girl and I said, “You guys, she writes like a dude. It’s crazy. Crazy good, that is!” I get excited at book club.
Even though I wasn’t a fan of the Gone Girl ending, I was spellbound by the story. Dark Places did not disappoint either, though it frequently gave me heart palpitations and one nightmare. True story. It’s THAT awesome! Gillian’s characters are flawed, mostly feral, and the situations she writes for them are chilling.
Next on the list is her debut novel, Sharp Objects. Here’s an excerpt from Stephen King’s review, “. . . I found myself dreading the last thirty pages or so but was helpless to stop turning there. Then, after the lights were out, the sting just stayed there in my head, coiling and hissing, like a snake in a cave.”
When the man who penned pant-soiling stories like The Shining, It and Misery says he was “dreading” but “helpless,” that’s a “drop the mic and walk off stage moment,” my friends.
Gillian, keep on doing what you’re doing, girl, even if you’re doing it like a dude!