Gillian Flynn

REVIEW: Widows (2018)

Four women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead criminal husbands, take their lives into their own hands as they conspire to steal the money they need to repay the men who are out to hurt them, and to make a better life for themselves.

Directed by Steve McQueen who cowrote the screenplay with Gillian Flynn, the author of Gone Girl and many other twisty stories, Widows is a tense heist thriller that never lacks in character and world building.

Widows grabs your attention straightaway, with the heist that goes wrong and leads to four career criminals dying. From then it’s an exploration of the people who are left behind and their grief and loss of what to do next. Viola Davis’s steely Veronica is the one who brings the widows together. She has plans left to her by her late husband (Liam Neeson) and needs help in order to get the money to stop those who wish to hurt her.

All four leading ladies are magnificent. Michelle Rodriguez’s Linda is struggling to provide for her young children, Elizabeth Debicki’s Alice has no career prospects, and Cynthia Erivo’s Belle is working multiple jobs to keep herself and her family afloat. They are four very different characters but they come together with one goal in mind. That’s not to say they don’t have their disagreements, but together they find a strength and determination that some of them didn’t know they had.

Set in Chicago with a backdrop of criminal activity, by politicians and more traditional criminals alike, Widows manages to be a compelling story about interesting and layered women while also managing to bring in race, politics and class into the story. These elements flesh out the Chicago setting. Colin Farrell plays Jack Mulligan, a career politician and whose family has been elected to office for generations, while Brian Tyree Henry plays Jamal Manning, a man who has criminal connections but is from the neighboured he’s campaigning to represent. These two men each have underhand dealings but they approach illegal activity, politics and violence in very different ways.

While Widows is building towards a heist, it’s the characters themselves and the stages they have to go through to prepare for the heist that’s the main focus of the film. That doesn’t make it, or the final crime, any less satisfying. You learn about these women, the hardships they’ve faced, and the forces that are out to stop them, and you soon realise that nothing is going to stop them from doing what they set out to do. 5/5.

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TOP TEN TUESDAY: Top Ten Creepy Books

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature run by BrokeAndBookish each week – I’m thinking I might not take part every week but just see if a week takes my fancy. In honour of Halloween, which I don’t really do anything for, here are some creepy books you might want to check out if you’re in the mood for a scare.

poePoe by J. Lincoln Fenn
There’s supernatural elements in Poe as well as the standard stuff of having a creepy old house full of secrets, a séance and a possible psychotic murderer. Poe may be creepy but it also does a great job in adding humour to make the creepiness bearable.

The Strain by Chuck Hogan and Guillermo del Toro
If you’ve seen the TV show, you’ll know what The Strain is about. The thing about the book is it starts with this plane that’s completely silent and the atmosphere in the airport is suffocating. From there it never really lets up, there’s the vampire like creature, the graphic description of peoples bodies changing – the whole thing really sets your teeth on edge.

172 Hours on the Moon by Johan HarstadFullSizeRender (48)
I don’t want to say too much about it because it’s one of those books that’s best to go in blind but it was another creepy book that gave me goosebumps. I liked the tension and sense of foreboding throughout the novel and when the weirdness starts to happen, you don’t know what to believe. (more…)

REVIEW: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

FullSizeRender (67)Camille has been living and working in Chicago as a journalist for years and hasn’t really thought about her hometown in Missouri or her family. Her younger sister Marian died when she was a child and she was never close to her mother. Camille also has a younger half-sister she knows nothing about and she never thought she’d ever go back home to get to know her. That is until young girls are going missing, and some are turning up dead and Camille’s boss at the paper sends her home to get the story.

Sharp Objects is a murder mystery that also looks at family and the way small towns can be toxic but can also offer a place of normalcy – depending on what sort of person you are. Camille finds her hometown of Wind Gap suffocating and wants to leave even before she arrived. Wind Gap is the epitome of small town mentality – all her school friends are still there, married to each other and have children and are still catty to one another. Camille is the only one who ever left and she’s not sure how to process that.

The relationship between Camille and her mother Andora is fascinating but it also put me (and Camille) on edge. There’s a lot of mixed messages and sometimes it seems that Camille is an unreliable narrator as you hear what Andora’s take is on Camille’s childhood. Amma, Camille’s half-sister, is not nice. She’s thirteen but she acts a lot older and is the ringleader of the popular girls in the high school and they revel in making fun of the other kids and adults in the town. But to Andora, Amma is the perfect southern belle who can do nothing wrong and is mummy’s little girl.

The three women are the central driving force in Sharp Objects; Camille, Amma, and Andora are all complex and interesting characters but are not always likeable. Even Camille, who is our in to the story often comes across as selfish or weak or standoffish. It was different to read a book where I often didn’t like the main character, or found their decisions stupid which in turn made me dislike them more.

I read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn last year so I sort of knew what to expect in terms of the novel being dark and often twisted. Still, Sharp Objects still surprised me. I thought I’d got “who’d done it” about half way through the book (it’s quite a short and quick read) but there was layers of secrets and lies so while I had figured some things out, it turned out I hadn’t got the whole thing worked out. In some ways I liked that because it meant I had the rug pulled from under me at the very end. But on the other hand, because it was going down one route (that I thought was obvious) for so long I became a bit bored, the big reveal didn’t affect me as much because I had become less invested in the story.

If you like Flynn’s other books I’d give Sharp Objects a read and if you haven’t, it’s a good starting point. It’s pretty short and fast-paced, it’s surprising and I have mixed feelings about the characters. It’s definitely one where the ending makes you think. 4/5.

REVIEW: Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

photo (6)Nick Dunne is (sort of) happily married to Amy but then on their five year anniversary he comes home to find the house trashed and Amy gone. Soon he along with family and the police are trying to find out what has happened to Amy, however it’s not long before the suspicion falls onto Nick – as it is always the husband that kills the wife.

Gone Girl starts off slow and sort of predictable as there are all the usual tropes you expect to find with crime scenes and police investigations thanks to the influx of cop shows we’ve all watched. However, it soon starts turning the tropes on their head and there are twists and turns that you don’t suspect that causes Gone Girl to become incredibly tense and thrilling.

The story is told from two perspectives. There’s Nick and what’s happening in the present as he goes about his day before finding Amy missing and then the following police search. And then there’s Amy’s story which is told in the form of diary entries from when she first met Nick seven years ago. It’s fascinating seeing the correlation between Amy’s diary entries and Nick’s memories of those events.

The thing I found most interesting about Gone Girl is the fact that Nick is an unreliable narrator and you don’t know whether or not to trust him. I don’t think I’ve read anything from an unreliable narrator before and it’s a very unsettling experience and really adds some tension to the story. There’s a line that really surprised me (it’s the last line on page 42) and that’s when I knew that this book was going to be interesting. That being said there’s a point about half way through when suddenly the story shifts and I was just reading in shock and my brain couldn’t really comprehend where this story was now going. But that was great! Don’t think I’ve been that surprised by a plot development in ages.

Both Nick and Amy are fascinating yet somewhat unlikable characters in some respects and as you see both their sides of the story there are things that don’t match up and you’re not sure who to believe. The ending was completely unexpected but at the same time it suited the characters and the story almost perfectly.

I can’t recommend Gone Girl enough and it’s definitely a story you can’t stop thinking about. The movie also looks brilliant and say what you want about Ben Affleck as Batman but I think he’s going to be an amazing Nick Dunne. While Gone Girl is a bit slow to start it is incredible with all its twists and turns and thoroughly deserves 5/5.