Dec. 28th, 2012

missroserose: (Kick Back & Read)
Damn. That's messed up.

I can see why this book has caused such a splash. It's brilliantly written; the unreliable narrator is a tricky thing to pull off, and Flynn has done so brilliantly here. What starts out a seeming tragedy quickly turns into a dark portrait of a dysfunctional marriage, then even darker, maintaining a surprisingly nimble pace while plumbing the depths of a toxic relationship.

I have to give the author credit; this book is compelling as heck, and not just for the "who done it?" aspect. Part of it is witnessing the unfolding trainwreck of the Dunnes' marriage; part of it is piecing together what actually happened between the conflicting accounts; part of it is just plain seeing where the story goes next. (The only part where my attention started to wander a bit was towards the end; this is not uncommon in stories based around intra-character manipulation (The Magus, I'm looking at you), as by their very nature such stories make satisfying endings difficult. But fortunately this one doesn't overstay its welcome too badly, and even manages an affecting (if somewhat predictable) coup de grace.) But what gives the novel its chewiest aspects is its portrayal of the nature of love, sex, and marriage: the power dynamics therein, and the way narrative (and our desire to fit within the ideal) can warp our perceptions of ourselves and our relationships.

This is definitely not a book for everyone, or for every mood. The depictions of neglect, frustration, and eventual outright manipulation and sadism between Nick and Amy are difficult to read at times; but even aside from that, there will definitely be people lucky enough to have never found themselves in toxic relationships (or who are trapped inside one and in denial about it) who will insist that these characters aren't realistic. For those of us who find Nick and Amy perhaps just a touch uncomfortably familiar, however, and who occasionally despair at whether our cultural perceptions of marital perfection can ever be achieved between fundamentally imperfect people...I think you might appreciate this book. Even if the only real reaction you can give at the end is that schoolyard classic: Damn. That's messed up. B+

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