It wasn’t that I didn’t like GONE GIRL. It was that GONE GIRL just never got going for me. I plowed through about 40 or 50 pages of the novel and raised the white flag. Not because the writing wasn’t good, quite the opposite. It was exquisite. Gillian Flynn can write circles around me and most other authors.
The problem was, I didn’t know what the story was. No conflict or drama emerged, at least in those early pages. A friend of mine who read the book (all the way through) said, “You should have stuck with it.” After seeing the movie, I knew he was right. But I got tired of taxiing down a runway in an airplane that never took off.
I had the same problem with Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize-winning ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE. I jumped into the novel with great anticipation. I love dramas set against WWII. Again, however, the story never gained traction with me, and I quit in frustration after about half-a-dozen chapters.
I certainly don’t come from a generation that demands instant gratification. I’m old school–really old school. I grew up with typewriters, radio (not TV or the Internet), and party lines. Party lines, for you youngsters, were shared phone lines where you could eavesdrop, if you were so inclined, on what was going on in other people’s lives. Kind of like Facebook without pictures.
Maybe it’s because I’m a thriller/suspense writer and have been schooled to yank readers into my stories ASAP . . . like within the first few pages. I’ll cut most authors some slack (especially if I’ve read them before) and give them a chance, a few chapters, to tug me into a drama. But if that hasn’t happened within 50 pages, I’m outta there.
Ironically, the two books that resonated most with me over the past year were nonfiction works, THE BOYS IN THE BOAT and SHADOW DIVERS. Both read like compelling novels.
THE BOYS IN THE BOAT is a gripping tale about the 1936 University of Washington crew that went to the Berlin Olympics and won a gold medal. It’s a classic story of overcoming crushing personal challenges and overwhelming odds.
SHADOW DIVERS is about wreck divers who discovered a sunken WWII German U-boat off the coast of New Jersey. Strangely, there was no record of a German sub being sunk there, and no one could identify it, not even the Germans. The wreck claimed lives, not just physically, but socially and emotionally, too, as two of the divers dedicated their careers (and sacrificed their marriages) to unravelling the mystery.
Anyhow, my apologies to Gillian Flynn and Anthony Doerr. Maybe I’m just an old curmudgeon who’s morphed into a contrarian and hasn’t yet realized it.