I gave up eighty pages in and skimmed the rest for plot (I always try to make it at least 50 pages in good faith with any novel-length reading endeavor). The writing isn’t bad at all; far superior to most fiction that makes its way to a similar spot on the charts. What I can’t handle is the voice. I have no problem sticking through books full of -or narrated by- horrible people. Portnoy’s Complaint, Lolita, and the short stories of Annie Proulx and Thom Jones are all personal favorites, because the shitty human beings within are interesting. Not to say that Amy and Nick (Flynn’s two main characters) aren’t round or convincing; they’re fine, but they’re no more compelling than a couple suburban soccer moms comparing hair treatments and minivan MPG.
I understand that the book is full of action, full of intrigue and dramatic tension, I just can’t stand being in the heads of these two. They think boring thoughts about interesting things, their musings painted with a facade of hip cleverness that feels unnatural and forced. I’m also more than a little tired of hearing New York writers write about writing and New York, and writers in New York. If they must, -especially in 2012- they’ve got a lot of tropes to surmount. Flynn reaches for low-hanging fruit instead, describing a party of NYC writers with the word “ironic” no fewer than four times in the same chapter (ironic t-shirts, ironic apple schnapps, etc.).
This isn’t genre-bashing. I loved Denis Johnson’s novel Nobody Move, a modern noir thriller with pretty heavy Raymond Chandler shading. I loved it because the characters were interesting and genuinely funny and because the book stood on it’s own either on the level of prose or plot. A clever story is nice, but anybody can come up with a clever idea. It’s the the lucidity of implementation that’s actually impressive.
Recommendation: Pass. Don’t buy it, don’t borrow it, just don’t waste your time. See the movie if that’s your thing.