The book Dark Places contains talks of blood, child sexual abuse and assault, depression, drugs, murder and suicide. This review does not go into those details, but if you plan on reading the book, those are the trigger warnings for it.
Listen to this review instead: https://open.spotify.com/episode/2y9hWN1eT2mwqXL6ISLbx4?si=QbZKW1XHRuim_wgQdTFc2A
One of my resolutions for this year is to read at least one book a month, and as I’ve already read Gillian’s books Gone Girl and Sharp Objects which we did do a full podcast episode on regarding the book and the show (listen to that here: https://closeupculture.com/2019/08/06/does-amy-adams-deserve-an-emmy-for-sharp-objects/ ), it only seemed natural for me to continue reading her work. it’s taken me about 2 weeks to read as I began reading just a few chapters each night before bed, but as I got past the half way point, I read more and more, just wanting to discover the truth. This will be a non spoiler-y chat, so if you’re interested in the book but haven’t read it yet, no worries from me! Here's the blurb from the back of the book.
Libby Day was just seven years old when her evidence but her fifteen year old brother behind bars. Since then, she has been drifting. But when she is contacted by a group who are convinced of Ben's innocence, Libby starts to ask question's she never dared to before. Was the voice she heard her brother's? Ben was a misfit in their small town, but was he capable of murder? Are there secrets to uncover at the family farm or is Libby deluding herself because she wants her brother back? She begins to realise that everyone in her family had something to hide that day... especially Ben. Now twenty four years later, the truth is going to be even harder to find. Who did massacre the Day family?
Like I said, I’ve read 2 of Gillian’s other books, and I totally love her style. I’m not a big horror fan with jumps cares and ghosts, but I think years of watching films and becoming slightly desensitised, gore and death is something that doesn’t spook me out when reading or watching things. I think I can also thank having periods, haha.
This book is definitely darker than the others from her, as the title suggests, really diving into things like the devil rather than just our own personal flaws. I really like the writing style, flicking between diary-like entries marking the day of the murders and also the decades later with libby, the main heroine of the story. They mirrored each other in amazing ways, letting us really get into the minds of the characters and only really learning as they did.
The story is quite complex with the details but at the same time when looking back on it, it is simple, and makes me wonder about actual murder cases and how they could be solved over time as the science of dna develops and people on their death beds wanting to die at peace. I just thought it was so clever to be able to move between the different times so we could see the police picture, but also the true picture, one which often isn’t found.
When I read Gillian’s book Sharp Objects, I said in the podcast episode then that it felt old fashioned, like we’d been taken back 100 years due to the small town not really progressing with the times. This book felt very different, and even though we have date and time stamps at the start of each chapter letting us know that it was set in the mid 80s for half of it, the only thing really emphasising this was that they didn’t have phones. Maybe for an American reader, they could pick up better on general things like the school and bike riding, but as a British reader, I liked that it could be ambiguous time setting and even be turned into a futuristic novel. Just something I picked up on really.
The back of the book has discussion points, I guess for schools and book clubs, but one question stands out to me. Dark places has a very strong sense of place. How has the author achieved this? Personally, after reading her other books, I feel that Gillian Flynn is amazing at describing places and really making us feel like we have driven past the houses or been round the fields or walked into the shops. She uses all her characters senses to relay the information to the reader, noting how roads tasted like fast food as libby drove to different places, or the tickling of foxtail weeds against children’s wrists. I often feel like American farmland is portrayed as quite a scary place to be in films, and this book is no different, but the way it’s talked about in this book makes us feel like we can be at home and comfortable there also.
There is a film version of the book on amazon prime that I might watch one day, but until then, I’m just happy that I was finally able to read this book as it’s been on my shelf for a while, and just appreciate Gillian’s writing even more.
So that’s been my tasty debrief as part of the close up culture podcast, I hope this has inspired you to read the book, or think about it again if you have already. Thanks for reading!