It is a truth universally acknowledged that a crime fiction novel……

Posted: February 8, 2013 in Book Awards, USA

…with 25 blurbs* must:

a] be a “near-masterpiece”.

b] be the beneficiary of a very large advertising budget, and a Twitter campaign.

c] likely to feature big stars in the movie version.

d] be set in the scary tribal regions east of the Rockies and west of the Appalachians.

e] make it impossible to review the book, as so many people have given it so much praise that any opinion that varies with that will mark the reviewer down as an eccentric.

[* in the British paperback edition.]

I am referring to Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, a book I had trouble getting into, and discovered that another blogger, whose opinion I respect, had given up at about page 80. It was around that point in the narrative that I wondered if I had got a different version of this book than that read by the blurbers. But I stuck it out and finished reading the book, and I have no quibble with the author, who produced an interestingly plotted psychological thriller. What I find mildly annoying is all the blurbling ballyhoo, and fuss, which raised my expectations to a level that could only have been satisfied by some brilliant new plot twist devised by a combination of Agatha Christie, Ruth Rendell and Reginald Hill. Some of the blurbs are interesting, one is by someone who hasn’t even read the book yet…. 

‘Just about everyone I meet, and everyone on Twitter, is telling me it’s brilliant, so I can’t wait to see what the fuss is all about’  S.J. Watson, Sunday Express 

Many are frankly just a little bit over the top.

 (with a mid-story twist so shocking you’ll drop the book)- a gasp-inducing twist- A near-masterpiece- wildly unexpected plot twists- you’ll beg others to read it so you can discuss it with them- The plot has it all- her terrifying wonderful conclusion is reached. 

I didn’t drop the book because the blurbs had prepared me for some brilliant new plot idea and it wasn’t there. Readers who gasped in complete shock and dropped their books perhaps haven’t read much crime fiction.

Also I would have preferred to have been given less information on the location of the major plot twist. Soon we may have blurbs telling the reader there are plot twists on page 234 and 356. The book itself has at least one flaw in that the main characters Nick and Amy are both horrid, spoilt, pretentious and arrogant, and I did not really care what happened to them. One could say that Gillian Flynn’s writing is brilliant in that she inspires strong emotions in her readers, and succeeded in creating two of the most unpleasant characters in modern crime fiction. 

  1. suzigun says:

    And there I was thinking I needed to go out and buy this book NOW! I’ve been surprised a few times with books that have been highly praised on twitter etc only to be under-whelmed by them. Not sure if it’s an “Emporer’s new clothes” sort of thing and people don’t actually have their own opinions. Much easier if you could ignore the hype and take each book at face value… but then someone raves about something which really is a gem and you’re pleased that you listened.

  2. Margot Kinberg says:

    Norman – Oh, this is funny! Yes, blurbs and tweets about books are getting more and more over-the-top. Honestly it’s gotten to the point where the more hype a book gets the less likely I am to want to read it unless it’s been recommended by someone I really trust. And in that case I simply don’t read the hype.

  3. Your point that readers who dropped the book in shock at the twists mustn’t read much crime fiction is spot on. I saw most of them coming and felt manipulated throughout the book. One redeeming feature was the social portrait of the times. I wonder if it hadn’t been so lauded, and my expectations raised, I might’ve enjoyed it more. I don’t think so.

  4. kathy d. says:

    You hit the nail on the head. I actually, despite the hype, am not reading this book. I don’t like books in which I can’t even like one main character.
    Additionally, I read another book by the same author and although I was pulled in, I ultimately didn’t like it. It was told in the first person, and more and more horrid things about her family and her unfolded at each page. I finished it more than dismayed. Not that the writer was guilty of a writing crime. She wasn’t. I just disliked everyone.
    So, with two awful characters, I’m not reading it. I feel validated here.

  5. Issue of book quality aside surely you have shown the utter absurdity of authors “blurbing” each other by highlighting that Watson’s name appears on this book, talking favourably about it, despite never having read it. Could you ask for your money back if Watson later on published an opinion saying that once he’d read it he thought the book was crap? Yet another thing that makes me despair for humanity.

  6. kathy d. says:

    I would recommend The Golden Calf, the next Irene Huss case, by Helene Thurston, which I think Maxine would have written a good review about and posted it. It’s well-written and avoids the idiotic pitfalls, which we all mention.

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