Near the end of the “acknowledgements” section of Gillian Flynn’s novel Dark Places, which I just finished earlier this week, she writes something along the lines of she’s not sure how her husband can comfortably sleep next to her knowing the twisted things her brain is capable of producing. I found myself nodding my head at this, because after reading all of Mrs. Flynn’s novels (Sharp Objects, the aforementioned Dark Places, and the unstoppable, megahit, soon-to-be-movie-starring-Phantoms-star-Ben-Affleck Gone Girl), it’s very clear her head is a freaky deaky place, and being unconscious around her could justifiably make a fella nervous. Her writing makes me wonder if maybe there’s a little something wrong with her. More importantly, the fact that I enjoy her writing so much makes me wonder if maybe there’s a little something wrong with me.
For those unfamiliar with her work, as you may have guessed, Gillian Flynn writes some dark, slightly demented stuff. Her books contain a teeth-removing child serial killer, a protagonist who treats her own body like a carving block, grisly descriptions of axe murders, Satanic cow slaughtering, and some of the creepiest tween and teen characters you ever did see. And all that’s to say nothing of Gone Girl, about which I can’t reveal much of anything without spoiling the whole book but, trust me, may be Flynn’s sickest puppy yet. Sounds pretty abominable, no? Well, I thoroughly enjoyed all three books. But why?
The subject matter is icky. None of the characters are particularly likeable. There are no happy endings to be found. But man, the writing is strong. The mysteries are carefully crafted and unfold at the perfect pace. The settings are described in such a way that makes you almost feel the grime. Best of all, the trips into the heads of the broken, mostly detestable characters are as compelling as they are offputting. Sure, you probably wouldn’t want to invite them to your fantasy literary dinner party, and you may just plain hate them, but they’re flawed, just like you (only to profoundly more messed up degrees, in most cases), and they’re real. I’m a little ashamed to admit I relate to them in some ways (not the murder-y ways), and there’s some real truth to be found and appreciated amidst all the psychotic happenings.
So, is there anything wrong with liking Gillian Flynn? I don’t think so. Her stuff’s not for everyone, particularly those who are easily offended or don’t like their reading selections to leave them feeling like they may need to shower. However, if there’s a hint of a dark itch in you that could use a good scratch, she’s the author for you.