Gone Girl

Twentieth Century Fox, 2014. Dir. David Fincher.

Twentieth Century Fox, 2014. Dir. David Fincher.

I finally managed to watch Gone Girl last night; David Fincher’s dark, unnerving thriller, and I highly recommend it. Based on the brilliant 2012 novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn (she also wrote the screenplay for the film) it tells the story of Nick Dunne, who’s wife, Amy, appears to have gone missing on their 5th wedding anniversary. After a morning coffee in town Nick returns home to find the door wide open, the lounge smashed up and no sign of Amy. She has been made famous by her parents’ children’s books featuring ‘Amazing Amy’ and soon there is nationwide interest in her disappearance.

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Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne

The film then starts shifting from the present to Amy writing diary entries back from when her and Nick first met. They start off as the seemingly perfect couple then both are made redundant from their writing jobs, Nick’s mother becomes ill, and they consequently move from New York City to Carthage, Missouri (Nick’s hometown). Amy uses the last of her trust fund to buy Nick a bar, which he runs with his twin sister, Margot, whilst she becomes more and more alienated. Through these diary entries we also learn of a darker side to Nick, with her final entry stating that “this man may kill me”. The two narratives then converge as the tension builds and the plot twists and turns.

Rosamind Pike as Amy Dunne

Rosamind Pike as Amy Dunne

It is a gripping neo noir thriller with an atmosphere of simmering malice that both unnerves and provokes. Ben Affleck and Rosamind Pike are, to my mind, perfectly cast; embodying the twisted, soulless, narcissistic sociopaths that we come to learn both Nick and Amy are. I read the novel a year ago and, I have to say, I think the film does the book perfect justice and the leads in the film are just how I imagined the characters to be when I was reading. I’m sure much of this is helped by the fact that (very wisely) the author of the novel also wrote the screenplay.

It is a story largely about image and perception; about the fickleness of the public and the masks we wear. The disparity between our true selves and the person we present to the world. How well do we really know another person, even those closest to us? I’m sure a lot of us can identify with that.

Both the film and the book are gripping, sharp and darkly compelling. I urge you to take a look.

Mark Edwards – The Magpies, Because She Loves Me

Thomas and Mercer, 2013.

Thomas and Mercer, 2013.

I’ve just finished two great books in quick succession by British author, Mark Edwards, ‘The Magpies’ and ‘Because She Loves Me’. Both are well written, fast paced psychological thrillers examining the horror in the everyday, which keep you guessing throughout.

The Magpies tells the tale of a young couple, Jamie and Kirsty, who move into their perfect flat in North London, ready to start a life together. Their little bubble is soon burst as they meet various suspicious neighbours and then odd things start to happen; hoax pizza deliveries, hoax calls to the fire brigade, targetted junk mail. Soon things get much more sinister and they’re living in a paranoid state of fear over their ‘neigbours from hell’, as the book reaches a dramatic conclusion.

Thomas and Mercer, 2014.

Thomas and Mercer, 2014.

Because She Loves Me is the second book by Mark Thomas and, in his words, was written as a ‘companion book’ to The Magpies. Indeed it refers to characters from the first story several times.

In this book we meet Andrew Sumner, who is undergoing hospital treatment for a detached retina (ouch). As he’s leaving he meets Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Summers; a beautiful, intelligent redhead. They begin a relationship that soon becomes intense and then, when ‘bad luck’ seems to befall his close friends and family and Charlie’s obsessive and jealous behaviour rears its ugly head, Andrew (and we) begin to wonder if the two are connected.

Both books have a section at the end in which the author talks about the inspiration for the stories and his focus for both books is very much the horror in the everyday. The notion that the threat comes not from something monstrous like a vampire or demon but from your neighbours or the person you love.

A lot of the events are ambiguous, where there can be more than one explanation for something, so just as you think you know where the stories are going you realise you’ve been wrong footed and have to start working things out again. They are both great page turners with well written characters and plots that keep you guessing. I highly recommend them and will be looking out for future books from this author.

One Day – David Nicholls

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Hodder Paperbacks. 2010.

Well I thought I’d kick off with a review of the book I’ve just finished reading, the critically acclaimed and bestselling novel ‘One Day’ by David Nicholls, first published in 2009 (so I’m a little late to the party).

I’d heard a lot about this book, and seen the many five star reviews and complimentary quotes about it, so thought I’d be in for a treat. However, I finished it (finally!) a couple of days ago feeling rather disappointed and bewildered as to the multitude of brilliant reviews it has received.

The story begins at the graduation of the book’s protagonists, Dex and Em, from Edinburgh University on 15th July 1988 (St Swithin’s Day as we are soon to find out). Em (Emma Morley) is from Yorkshire; a wannabe writer, fiercely intelligent, sharp tongued, opinionated and a little dull. Dex (Dexter Mayhew) grew up in a large family home in the Cotwolds; privately schooled, charismatic, good looking and always the life and soul of the party. They spend the night together as friends and then go their separate ways. We then catch up with them on this same date every year for the next 20 years as the book charts the course of their lives and their friendship.

Whilst I enjoyed the premise and structure of the book, following these characters by seeing just a snippet of their lives each year, I have to say that I found it all rather predictable. There was little to surprise the reader (apart from one stand alone moment towards the end of the book) and it panned out pretty much how I expected. In some instances I don’t mind predictability if the writing grabs me and the characters are engaging but I found Dex and Em pretty…..dull. They were both fairly uninspiring and irritating and I just wasn’t really connected to them or their story and consequently didn’t particularly care about them.

I kept trying to like it, really I did. Felt like I should like it when it has had such praise heaped upon it, but sadly I just couldn’t. It’s hard to like a story about characters that you feel fairly indifferent towards. It was rather a slog to get to the end which can never be a good sign.

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Focus Features, 2011. Directed by Lone Scherfig.

I am interested, though, to see the 2011 film adaptation, in which Nicholls himself wrote the screenplay, starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess as Em and Dex. I love Anne Hathaway, so am hoping I might be more invested in the story with her portraying one of the protagonists. I’m also going to give David Nicholls another go. I have his latest offering ‘Us’ ready to read and will see if that appeals to me more.

Even though this wasn’t for me, so many people love this book so give it a try and make up your own mind. The world would be a boring old place if we all felt the same way about everything!