Book Review(s): Gone Girl & Its Most Notable Successors

If you opened this post expecting a review of Gone Girl, a. I’m sorry to disappoint, and b. how have you not read it already? I apologize for patronizing, but, seriously, head to your local bookstore, grab a copy, and watch your afternoon disappear before your eyes as you get caught up in the world of Amy and Nick Dunne. Once you’ve done that, come back to the site and read up on all the books I’ve found successful in filling the ‘Gone Girl’ void since I completed it back in 2012.

1. Disclaimer, Renee Knight

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Not for the faint of heart, but certainly for those in need of a page turner, Disclaimer is the latest book to be heralded as the next Gone Girl. I discovered the book via the New York Times’  annual roundup of summer reads and instantly got my hands on a hardbound copy (you will never find me near a Kindle – sorry! – there’s just something about holding a book that makes it more special). The book is set in London, as, for whatever reason, all of my favorite psychology thrillers are, and it opens with a successful documentary filmmaker by the name of Catherine noticing a book on her coffee table that she has no recollection of purchasing. Once she thumbs through, she realizes that the book is actually a retelling of the worst thing she’s ever done. When she flips to the disclaimer page that generally states  “any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely unintentional”, she finds it crossed out in red. I would’ve finished this book in one sitting had I not had to stop for fear of nightmares–I must warn readers that it is a bit disturbing. The prose is surprisingly impressive for a novel of this genre (it certainly blows Flynn’s out of the water), and the twist both utterly shocking and entirely feasible at the same time – you’ll never see it coming.

2. Her, Harriet Lane 

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I picked up Her, another psychological thriller set in London, at the recommendation of my friend Molly, who had warned me that the book, while amazing, had a somewhat disappointing ending – more on that later. The book follows two women, Nina, one a beautiful artist approaching middle age, on her second husband, and the Emma, a new mother, struggling to enjoy life in the face of the enormous responsibilities of motherhood. After Nina and Emma have a ‘chance’ meeting in the park, Nina begins to take an active interest in becoming Emma’s friend. Emma is confused as to why such a glamorous and sophisticated woman such as Nina cares about a mess like her, but accepting of the friendship – until she realizes Nina’s true motivation for pursuing her camaraderie. I have to agree with Molly that the ending isn’t jaw dropping, but there’s something about its anti-climactic nature that makes this book seem more real. A perfect vacation read for summer, particularly if you’re heading to the South of France, where part of the book takes place. Another notable work from Harriet Lane is her first novel, Alys Always, which I checked out after finishing her.

3. The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins  

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 Reviewing this may be somewhat gratuitous, as, if you’ve read Gone Girl or are pursuing books similar in their content, it is indubitable that you’ve already come across The Girl on the Train. However, of the three books I’m reviewing in the post, it was my favorite, so it certainly deserves a shout out. The book takes place in – surprise, surprise – London, and stars an alcoholic struggling to get her life together and recover from the devastating dissolution of her marriage (though her remarried ex-husband certainly had no trouble). On her commute to ‘work’ (you’ll rapidly discover that her employment is a ruse, so that’s hardly a spoiler), she repeatedly sees a lovely couple sunning themselves on their patio. She creates names and a perfect life for the two perfect people that seem to have themselves entirely in order – until one day, she witnesses something that makes it patently clear that they don’t. Much like Gone Girl, Girl on the Train features an unreliable narrator (Rachel is an alcoholic who isn’t entirely sure whether what she witnessed was real or a hallucination during a drunken stupor), multiple viewpoints, and an absolutely shocking plot twist at the end. Even my friends who never read copped to being unable to put this one down.

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