dark-places-november-discussionIt’s time to discuss Dark Places by Gillian Flynn. Based on the comments on instagram already this was definitely one with mixed feelings from readers, so I look forward to hearing what you all have to say. Mixing in a thriller after YA fantasy and a classic was certainly a risk, and kudos to the dedicated readers who have stuck with me every month are push their reading boundaries into new genres!

**Beware** The discussion below will contain spoilers for Dark Places, if you have not read it yet please look away!

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Questions – to be answered in any order or ignored altogether

  1.  What were you overall impressions of Dark Places? And star rating if you gave it one?
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  2. How did you experience the book? Were you engaged immediately, or did it take you a while to get into it? How did you feel reading it—amused, sad, disturbed, confused, bored…?
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  3. Did you find the characters convincing? Were they believable, fully developed as complex human beings—or were they one-dimensional?
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  4. Did you think the plot was well developed and believable (within the confines of the thriller genre)? Did plot events unfold naturally?
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  5. Did you find the ending satisfying? If so, why? If not, why not…and how would you change it?
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  6. Did you have a favourite quote that stood out?

Don’t forget to add a link to your review if you wrote one, or include your Instagram account name if you wrote a mini review there, so others can check it out.

We’ll be reading Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer in December, and I hope you’ll join me!

Remember: Tag your instagram photos with #babblingbookclub for your change to be featured & search the tag to find fellow readers!

Tamsien - Babbling Books
Reader, blogger, photographer with perpetually itchy feet. Host of Babbling Books' Readalongs and curator of a very eclectic Instagram account.

10 Comments

  1. 1. Overall I thought the book was relatively well thought out. I gave it 4 stars primarily due to the fact the author kept me thinking about the murders and almost distracted me from the hints at where the story was going. I read Gone Girl a few years ago and enjoyed Dark Places more.

    2. I was engaged pretty early in the book, this style of flashback with changing perspectives always keeps me motivated to keep going. I find knowing how the story is affecting other characters very interesting. Almost would have liked to see this carry over into the present day storyline (although I realise that would have ruined the twist).The story predominantly made me feel curious. Also, Libby had a terrible life which prompted some sympathy. The scene of the actual murder was well described except for the part where Ben just stands there with his hands on Diondra’s shoulders was odd to me. It seemed like either he was just so infatuated/petrified of Diondra he wouldn’t intervene or he actually took some pleasure in it – which I though was somewhat confirmed when he makes reference to his blood lust and needing to be in jail.

    3. I had mixed feelings in regards to the characters. In regards to believability, I was disappointed how the father’s life had remained the same throughout the entirety of his fictional life – I got the point: he’s a selfish bastard. Libby herself was pretty well developed, at the beginning I thought maybe she had committed the murders but had dismissed this until she killed her aunt’s dog and burned the trailer down. This to me had a nod towards what I thought was an underlying theme of ‘capability’ through the novel. Patty being capable of arranging her own death, a father being capable of scorching his own family, Libby being capable of confronting her history (with the added motivator of financial need) etc.

    Overall though I could buy into it, which is probably why I kept reading.

    4. Yes, I thought overall it was believable. It had a certain flow to the narration which made it easy to accept the events. The backdrop of the satanic craze of that time was a good setting for the events which unfolded.

    5. The ending was as satisfying as a book like this could get. It left me with questions, not about the content of the book, just where it goes next. I did want maybe a little more from Ben in regards to his life and Diondra.

    6. “I assumed everything bad in the world could happen, because everything bad in the world already did happen.”

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Andrew, they are very similar to mine that I am about to share below! That tension that you identified, that anyone could have done it, that everyone has the capacity for violence and horror was for me the most powerful element of the story.

      I also think the ending, or rather the reveal that there was in fact 2 different murderers really appealed to me. There was a peculiar logic to it that felt like a neat puzzle piece falling into place. But I am with you regarding Ben’s actions. I understand that he was on a considerable amount of drugs, but I still think his behaviour in that scene didn’t really fit with his other actions. Death by strangulation takes quite a long time, and it’s bloody or brutal in the way of his various ‘fantasy’ temptations of violence.

      1. I agree with you Andrew on both 1 and 2. I loved the structure of the book and it was so well thought out. I certainly want to read more by this author!

  2. 1. Overall I really enjoyed Dark Places. It was an engaging read, and quite different to what I had expected after reading Gone Girl. I’m giving it 3.5 stars.
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    2. This story really grabbed me. Though I disliked all the characters the mystery of the murders had me speeding through the pages whenever I got the chance. I think the way the book was structured really helped to pull me in.
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    3. The characters in Dark Places were almost all unlikeable in some way, they all had deep flaws and sharp edges. But I felt overall they were believable in the exaggerated way of thrillers. The only character I really had a problem with was Lyle. He was the catalyst for a lot of Libby’s actions, and yet he felt one dimensional. The nerdy guy awed by a girl who pays attention to him gave him a ‘puppy dog’ air, despite his intelligence being highlights in other scenes. But perhaps I just have a problem with any portrayal of nerds as basement dwellers.
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    4. For a thriller, I think the plot was set out in a why which was believable. Of course by regular standards it would be unusual for something so complicated and disastrous to happen in such an neat timeline. The timeline and perspective jumps, especially to Ben, really helped build the tension. I read the whole novel in less than 3 days, which I think is testament to the engaging narrative style.
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    5. I’m glad the final chapter was Libby’s reconciliation with Diane. I think it closed out the story well, from the immature character we met in the first chapters, who is self destructive and pushes away everyone around her, so someone who can swallow her pride enough to see she has done wrong by others.

    6. I can’t go passed “I know a little but about trying to do the right thing and fucking it up completely”. It was in a conversation with Ben, in the present day, and thought Libby is an unlikeable character, I think this really shows that she grew as a person throughout the narrative. Characters don’t always have to develop into someone readers can love, or even really like, but progression and change are important in any narrative.

  3. Hi Tamsien!
    I enjoyed the book, but I think I would only give it 3.75 stars. I didn’t really experience it as a thriller- to me it read more like one of the true crime documentaries you always see on TV. I didn’t like any of the characters- it was interesting to see the way the author cast everyone in the worst possible light, even the young kids. The two murderers angle was very intriguing, but I found it really annoying that it was impossible to figure out who did it because one of the murderers wasn’t even introduced until the very end.

    1. Oh yes I definitely see the true crime angle, now that you have pointed that out. It’s always interesting to read a book where all the characters are awful, and it can be done really well. For me the male characters really let it down, and I agree, a few minor hints about the ‘hit man for assisted suicide for insurance purposes’ really wasn’t enough. I think it was mentioned twice, but I glossed over it so much that I didn’t make the connection until right before it was revealed. Which for some people might be a good thing (they like being surprised) but for me it was frustrating because I felt like it hadn’t been worked into the plot well enough.

      Here’s to next month’s read which promises to be totally different 😉

  4. Hi Tamsien,

    As you know, I DNF’ed this one about 270 pages in. I just couldn’t get into the story. I agree with Suki St Charles that it did read more like a True Crime Documentary, it reminded me a tiny bit of Making a Murderer (but nowhere near as gripping).

    After abandoning the book, I did watch the film this weekend just gone, and this is one of those rare instances where I preferred the film to the book! It wasn’t the best film but it was nice to know the ending. I’m not sure how much it deviated from the book but I made it to the end of the film which is more than I can say for the book!

    1. Hey Janel! I was sorry to hear that you DNF’d it, it’s always disappointing when I book doesn’t work out. But I guess that’s the challenge, to find lots of interesting books from different genres that lots of different people can enjoy. I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed the movie though. I have been debating back and forwards about watching it since I posted about the movie and a few people mentioned it is quite violent. I seem to cope better if the violence is written rather than shown (but I am a total wimp about gore!!). But I am quite curious to see how faithful it is to the book, so I might just give it a try!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts even though you didn’t finish it, and I hope that the next book you read with the Babbling Book Club will be more enjoyable!

  5. 1 & 2: I agree with what has already been said about the novel and the structure- it was a real page turner. I did however rate it slightly higher, maybe this is because I haven’t read as much in this genre. Up until now, crime fiction or thriller has never really tickled my taste buds. Similar to “The Girl on the train” in genre and writing style I highly enjoyed this fast paced work of fiction.

    3. Yes I did find the characters convincing and also complex. I particularly enjoyed the childhood innocence and naivety that existed in many of the characters and lead them to do what they did. I enjoyed each of the characters, their complex motivations became clear to me as the reader by the end of the novel, this definitely made it a page turner. I think the small town, country mentality also played a huge part in this story and just how dangerous hysteria can be. The main narrator, Libby was also highly intriguing, in fact each character who was given a voice in this novel held some sense of mystery which kept me guessing until the end.

    I was extremely suss on Ben from the beginning and I hated Diondra (how do you even pronounce that name!?!)

    5. Yes I did really enjoy the ending, the intertwining of the two murders was so intriguing and clever! Like Tamsien said the closure with Dianne was also rewarding.

    6. Two particular quotes that stood out were:
    -“Worries were almost physical beings, leechy creatures with latch hooks for fingers, meant to be vanquished immediately”
    -“How could you kill something you cared enough about?”

  6. Sorry I’m so late to the discussion but I just wanted to take part anyway!

    1. What were you overall impressions of Dark Places? And star rating if you gave it one?

    LOVED IT! I gave it 5 stars.
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    2. How did you experience the book? Were you engaged immediately, or did it take you a while to get into it? How did you feel reading it—amused, sad, disturbed, confused, bored…?

    The first few pages were awesome and then it slowed down but by page 100 I was hooked again and I devoured it in two days. I was really disturbed though – for many days afterwards. The ending kept playing on my mind.
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    3. Did you find the characters convincing? Were they believable, fully developed as complex human beings—or were they one-dimensional?

    I guess they weren’t that believable, now that I think about it. I might, what mother would do that? Kill herself so her children could have money? I don’t think they would ever forgive her had it all worked out but it was just a twisted ending that I was satisfied! They were definitely not one dimensional although… I did struggle to see how Libby blew through hundreds of thousands of dollars and did nothing with her life for over 20 years.

    5. Did you find the ending satisfying? If so, why? If not, why not…and how would you change it?

    Like I said, yes. At first, I was like – wait, really? A guy we don’t even know did it? But it was more than that – it was the mother’s fault. It was really her that caused it all. (And Diondra but still) The fact that it was the mother was a surprise and shock to me – I did NOT see that coming and I was satisfied.
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