October 24th, 2014

Book Review: Dark Places

Book Review: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn | Sara du Jour
Gillian Flynn is one hell of a writer. I plunged back into the world of fiction after a brief holiday in memoir-land, and let me start by saying: the title doesn’t lie. Dark Places is dark. Really, really dark.

Let me paint you a picture. A little farm town in Kansas, brought down by tough economic times. A family struggling to make ends meet. A worn-down mother of four, trying to keep food on the table and and her creditors at bay. A deadbeat, alcoholic father – a regular disappearing act. An angsty teenaged son who fits in nowhere and begins spending time around a rough crowd…

And then suddenly, one terrible night in 1985: the brutal slaughter of the mother and two young daughters by axe, stabbing, strangulation, and shotgun. Satanic symbols and phrases drawn with blood upon the walls. The youngest daughter, seven-year-old Libby Day, manages to escape the massacre, and having witnessed the horrors, testifies against her brother, who is sent to prison for life.

And that’s just the setup. The Kinnakee Kansas Farmhouse Massacre captures the attention of the nation, and many donate money to Libby throughout her childhood and teenaged years. Twenty-five years later, the money is dried up, and Libby, now an adult, is still drifting, fighting off the memories of that night, that she calls “Darkplace”.

She becomes aware of a group dedicated to obsessing over the details of horrific crimes and attempting to solve them, including the one her family went through. After meeting some of its members, she is surprised to find there is widespread agreement that her brother is not the one to blame. Out of desperation, she decides that this will become her source of income – she will run errands for this group, speaking to people who might have answers, in return for cash.

You know I can’t tell you anything else, much as I might want to. My book reviews are always spoiler-free.

Dark Places, by Gillian Flynn, was a New York Times bestseller upon its release in 2009, and is in talks to become a film. In 2010, Dark Places was awarded the Black Quill Award in the category of Dark Genre Novel of the Year.

Having also read Gone Girl by the same author, which I absolutely adored, I can now see that Gillian Flynn has a certain style of writing thrillers. Just like with Gone Girl, Dark Places features a narrator and protagonist who is human and flawed, and like most people, at times unreliable. Libby is warped, complex, and vitriolic, which is to be expected from someone who endured such a tragedy.

The narrative skips back and forth through time, and is told through multiple perspectives. In this case, from the points of view of present-day Libby Day, her brother Ben Day in the days leading up to the event in 1985, and their mother, Patty Day, also in the days leading up to January 3, 1985.

Multiple, brilliantly crafted stories and conflicts weave together to create the tapestry that is the book as a whole. (I’m starting to imagine Gillian Flynn as some mythical being, working on a loom.) Until the reader finally learns what really happened that night, we are left in the dark, surrounded by a plethora of suspects with compelling motivations.

As with Gone Girl, Dark Places left me surprised, and at times, utterly horrified and speechless. While it didn’t suck me in with the same force as did Gone Girl, it was still an excellent read. (This might be in part because I liked Gone Girl’s Amy more than I probably should have.)

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I feel like I need to cleanse my palate with some lighter fare next, lest I slip into some dark places myself. xx

Dark Places, by Gillian Flynn – My Rating: 4/5

– Sara

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  • lajourdesamm

    I was debating on whether or not I should read this. It’s safe to say that I’m convinced I should!

    • saradujour

      Let me know what you think of it, Samm! x

  • You always read the finest books :D I would recommend to you: Irvin D. Yalom – it shakes your world! Let me know what you think :)

    • saradujour

      Thanks for the recommendation, Zoenchii, and for leaving a comment. :) xx

  • EliCaroline

    I really do appreciate that you don’t have spoilers in your book reviews. I’ve been on the fence about reading another Gillian Flynn book. I liked Gone Girl but wasn’t blown away by it. Although, I did like that it had some twists and turns. If Dark Places has twists and turns too, then I might enjoy it too.

    • saradujour

      I cherish the reading experience far too much to ruin it for others! So glad you enjoy my reviews, thanks. Dark Places has some twists but not nearly as much as Gone Girl. I think Gone Girl was a better novel overall, so if you didn’t care for that, this might not be your cup of tea either. x

  • anishap

    Oooooh I really need to read this especially since I enjoyed ‘Gone Girl’ so much. You should try Gillian’s first book, ‘Sharp Objects’ too! Without spoiling anything, I’ll say that I found it to be quite a squeamish book, but I’m keen to hear your thoughts if you read it!!

    • saradujour

      I’m on the fence about reading Sharp Objects. I think I might need some time off of disturbing books, haha. But if I do read it you can be sure to read a review on here! :) x

  • ca-sci

    Iv read all three of her books and I have to say, though they are all twisted and spectacular, Gone Girl was my favorite too. Dark places a lot of times was a little disturbing. Sharp objects too was just as strange, but in a different way. Have you seen the Gone Girl movie (is it playing in Canada yet)? Interested in hearing your thoughts about how the movie and book compare.

    • saradujour

      I completely agree! Dark Places was a bit too much for me at times. I actually had a few nightmares while reading it, haha.

      I did see the Gone Girl film. I thought it was excellent – it had the same spirit as the book, which I think is thanks to Gillian Flynn having written the screenplay. I still prefer the book over the movie by quite a lot, though. (I think books that feature a lot of brilliant internal monologue for their characters always suffer a bit when transferred onto the screen.) How about you? x

  • Emily

    Dark Places was definitely quite disturbing and I admit I didn’t enjoy it as much as Gone Girl either! You should definitely read her first book, Sharp Objects, its full of those dark moments and twists that seem to be a trademark for Gillian.

    Also, the Dark Places film is apparently being released in November this year, but I may be wrong. :)

    • saradujour

      I’m getting peer pressured into reading Sharp Objects over here! Alright, alright, I give in! :P

      I did hear that about the film, but it looks like it’s one of those projects that was in high gear for a while, so they gave it an ambitious release date, and then problems arose. It’s still being cast/discussed, I believe, so it definitely won’t be out this year. Hopefully soon! x

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