After I finished Gone Girl, I decided to give the other novels by Gillian Fynn a try. The book that I am currently reading is Dark Places. To be honest, I did not really like the names of her other novels: Dark Places, Sharp Objects. The names sounded very generic to me. Flynn’s books seem to have simple naming convention: Adjective+Noun. Interesting!
The point, however, is,this: I am not enjoying Dark Places as much as I enjoyed Gone Girl. I am not someone who enjoys murder mysteries so much – I am not really into that genre. Whenever I think of murder mysteries I think of motives. And how many motives can an author ideally choose from? The seven sins, probably? And once you learn the motive, the story becomes water-simple. It is until the motive becomes clear that the mystery is really a mystery (Do correct me if I am wrong!).
A part of my disinterest in Dark Places can be attributed to the characters. In Gone Girl, I was really interested in both Nick and Amy. Nick is the handsome boy from not-so-rich background, and Amy is someone who’s both beautiful and rich. What happens when you put these two in a mix? That question interested me. In Dark Places, the main character, Libby Day, is depressed, lazy and really has no redeeming quality. She is in a bad position in life financially – and starts taking steps in life out of the basic need of money. To me, she is pathetic. And I feel no interest in her POV, whatever that is. I like her brother’s POV better – I want to know what life was for that fifteen year old boy before he was convicted of slaughtering his own family. Libby’s mother’s POV also did not interest me so much.
But of course, as I moved in the story, the structure of the narrative started to pull me in. The story moves back and forth between present and one day before the murder. Flynn masterly puts in place the pieces of the Day family’s life before that fateful day, which, of course, strokes your curiosity in a pleasant way – you want to know what happened in the lives of these people that dragged them to such an end.
Reading this book, I realized that no matter how uneventful somebody’s life is from your perspective, every life tells a story. As does every death. In death, nostalgia sets in – how would these characters’ lives have been, had they not been killed that day? Already they were in a bad position in life. Would something better have happened to the Day family which, in turn, might have lent a healthy touch to Libby’s life – such that she would not grow up to the the pathetic person that she is?
I’m curious – how does the basic traits of a character pull a reader into a story? As for me, I like characters who are trying to do something with their lives, someone who has the will and the character to bring changes in their lives, someone who is striving to become a better version of himself/herself. For me, Libby Day has no such value. In the same vein, Amy of Gone Girl is a masterpiece, if I may say so! Even though she is venomous, she is brilliant. And that attracts me like a insect to the fire.
What about you? What qualities do you like in the main character (MC) of any novel? Tell me about a story you read where the MC did not at all appeal to you at first. Did you end up finishing the story?