Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Happy Highsmith and a Very Unhappy Flynn

Highsmithic books are enjoyable because rooting for people caught up in difficult circumstances and doing very bad things can be fun.  But if you read too many books in this vein, and start to think about it, it can become too grim.  Like the choppping up of bodies which I just read about, at length, in Natuso Kirino's Out. Now I'm reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. The New York Times Book Review summarizes Gone Girl as "A woman disappears on the day of her fifth anniversary; is her husband a killer?" Is it Highsmithic?  Maybe.  Many reviews have mentioned Highsmith.  To me it seems more Grand Guignol than Highsmithic.  And invariably (it now seems) we get to a section where two volunteers on a search campaign looking for Amy Dunne (the titular gone girl) casually discuss the most likely way the husband got rid of the body - dumping it in the Mississppi River.  But one argues that you'd have to chop it up first, but then one wonders if the body parts wouldn't get stuck and wash up or how far would they flow before washing up.  And I thought to myself, maybe this is all a bit too much.  We can't always be talk about disposing of bodies like this.  After the detailed and technical discussions of how to dismember a body in Natsuo Kirino's Out, I think I need to read lighter fare.  On the whole, Gone Girl is an amazingly thrilling and venomous book with, perhaps, the world's two most unreliable narrators.  I thought it was a tremendously en
tertaining read and I can see why it was the fourth best-selling book (in print and e-book formats) in the US in 2012.  (Any guesses what the number 1,2,&3 best-selling books were?  For bonus points, what was number 9 and how did it relate to numbers 1,2&3?)

Which brings me to Alys, Always by Harriet Lane.  I read it because I heard good things about it.  This is hard to say without potentially spoiling the book but Francis Thorpe is scheming to insert herself into the Kyte family.  Specifically into the arms and bed of Laurence Kyte, a prominent English literary novelist whose life she enters when she comes to the aide of Kyte's wife, Alys, after a terrible automobile accident.  Part of the suspense is that we don't know what Frances Thorpe will do to do it or to what end this is all for anyway - but Thorpe (stop reading - spoiler) uses her dark deeds for a relatively benign purpose, a sort of nice, mild suprise ending.  Alys, Always ends more like Jane Eyre/Charlotte Bronte than Patricia Highsmith.  Think, Reader, I Married Him instead of Reader, I Dismembered Him (which is where I was worried the story would go).  And you know, it was refreshing and different.  She just wanted a certain life and seized upon an unusual way of achieving it.  And they all lived happily ever after.  And the only death was the car accident which starts the book.  And I went and double-checked, Francis does not cause the accident that starts the books (a would be wicked twist that I had been on the lookout for all along).

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