Sharp Objects

08/21/2015 at 8:31 AM (Books) (, , , , , , , )

After finishing Gone Girl and Dark Places, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects was on my high priority to read list. Now the deed is done. The first one blew me away with its complexity, the second one scared the hell out of me but being from a medical family and an avid fan of Law & Order and other police procedurals, the twist in this one didn’t surprise me as much because the symptoms were recognisable from the outset. Being set in the small town of Wind Gap, the suspect pool is pretty limited so this narrative is really about the guilty party’s motivation behind the murders of Ann Nash and Natalie Keene who were choked to death and found without their teeth.

Recently released from psychiatric care after a relapse into cutting herself, Camille Preaker, a reporter, is sent by her editor, to her hometown of Wind Gap to cover the murders for the Daily Post, the fourth-largest newspaper in Chicago, because he believes a serial murder case could boost the paper’s profile. This requires a reunion with her mother Adora who obsesses about ailments and her confident, fearless 13-year-old half-sister, Amma, which she isn’t keen about because unresolved ghosts of the past contribute to her mental issues.

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Source: thecaroline.com.au

Camille initially works alongside the police and detective Richard Willis with whom she strikes up a relationship until she seeks comfort elsewhere with a primary suspect. The author shows it is hard to keep things hush-hush in a small town and no-one can avoid suspicion. The path to identifying the perpetrator responsible for the murders before they strike again puts Camille on a head-on collision course with confronting the past she has attempted to escape.

Given she doesn’t damage anyone, the character of Camille is more sympathetic than Libby Day from Dark Places or Amy Dunne from Gone Girl but to be honest, she was too old to be having such childish issues. Some behaviours she exhibited suited a younger character who was about 19 or so. The character Amma interested me more given her powers exuded over the townsfolk and what the ending revealed about her was more telling than the truth about her mother. What fascinates me the most about this book is that in spite of this being a story about bad women, it is a feminist novel.

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Dark Places

08/20/2015 at 12:12 PM (Adaptations, Books, Movies) (, , , , , , , )

Gillian Flynn is a master of the craft when it comes to producing extremely irritating, mentally damaged characters who are a complete mess. It is no different with the emotionally troubled, parasitic protagonist of her novel Dark Places, Libby Day. The author does a great job with Libby’s first person perspective of her struggles in the present while a third person narrative gives readers insight into the mystery of happened to her family in 1985 highlighting this story is more character-driven than plot-driven.

In the present, friendless and forgetful Libby is finding it hard to fend for herself. The fact she’s a kleptomaniac does her no favours. The primary source of income Libby has been living off, the trust fund created when donations poured in after the murders, is starting to dry up.

Back in the past in 1985, her mother, who is heavily in debt, and two sisters are brutally killed. 7-year-old Libby lives because she flees the house, and ultimately it’s her testimony that convicts her brother Ben of the crime. Allegedly, Ben is a Satanist who lost control after getting in too deep with a bad crowd. The Kill Club, a group of amateur investigators who think that her brother is innocent get in touch with Libby and she reluctantly agrees to a paid appearance because she’s desperate for cash. While she is not keen about their focus on her brother, the potential of earning money entices her into visiting people connected to the murders. Suddenly as knowledge sinks in as an adult, Libby starts having doubts as to if Ben was the killer.

The ending was a bit too tidy for my liking and kind of disappointed me after the stellar one in Gone Girl, but I won’t say much about that as it will spoil the story. This is not a true who-dun-it but explorations of the inner workings of the psychologically warped. For those who are interested, these points illustrate key changes made to the Dark Places movie adaption by Gilles Paquet-Brenner.

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Gone Girl

08/19/2015 at 10:48 PM (Adaptations, Books, Movies) (, , , , , , , , )

On her fifth wedding anniversary, Amy Dunne has disappeared when her husband, Nick, arrives home. It appears there has been some commotion at home but to some investigating police officers, it looks too much like organised clutter. Being the husband, Nick is the obvious suspect and Amy’s parents start to slowly distrust him after he fails to show adequate grief for someone who lost his wife on national media. It turns out that Nick has secrets he has been hiding from wife and her adoring parents because their marriage has been rocky but the police have doubts as to whether he actually murdered Amy because there is no body. His only supporter is his twin sister, Margo, who never liked Amy.

Gone Girl

Source: katyat34.typepad.com

The second half of the book takes a surprising twist showing that Gillian Flynn had been “gaslighting” her readers for the first half which is the entire theme of the book. I probably shouldn’t say more as I’ve already said too much. This is probably one of the best deeply deranged thrillers I’ve ever read given the well-written prose, but Amy’s characterisation has a lot more depth than Nick’s.  I just finished reading American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis and while Gone Girl isn’t that gratuitous or nihilistic, I couldn’t help but feel there were some not so obvious parallels about creating a facade.

While I have no qualms with encouraging people to read the book, people who only watch the David Fincher movie based on the book are missing out as they have changed some key elements of the story, including what happens with Desi. The casting of Rosamund Pike was great for “Amazing Amy” but I couldn’t really swallow Ben Affleck as the hipster golden poster boy, Nick. Usually books told in multiple perspectives don’t translate so well into film as major plot details end up being omitted in order to maintain suspense. Some people find reading the book gruelling as it gets off to a fairly slow start but I found the movie more difficult to follow than Flynn’s novel which kept me awake until ungodly hours.

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The Girl on the Train

08/18/2015 at 11:56 AM (Books) (, , , , , , , , )

Because I finished all three novels written by Gillian Flynn, I was led to read this book which touted itself as the next Gone Girl. As I submerged myself into the book, apart from the theme of unreliable narrators, it was clear to me I wouldn’t have made the comparison. There are three narrators who tell the reader the unfolding events in the story: Rachel, the jilted lover; Anna, the other woman; Megan, the cheating wife. All these characters manage to be somewhat repugnant but still compel tinges of sympathy.

The Girl on the Train

Source: Goodreads

Rachel, our evidently alcoholic and therefore cannot-be-trusted first narrator, is in the habit of taking the same train from Asbury to Euston each morning, even though she has been fired. During a regular stop, she always watches a couple living near her old home, who is perfect in her eyes and she has given them imaginary names: “Jess and Jason”.  We find out she is pining for her lost marriage which once used to be like that. One day she is a spectator to something unexpected while on the train. Upset by what she saw, Rachel tells the police what happened, who find out she isn’t exactly a standout witness, and ends up becoming further involved in murky territory with the full cast of characters.

This book moves much quicker than Gone Girl does but the mystery and the sucker punch of the former is lacking here. Paula Hawkins puts in a lot of red herrings to misguide readers as to who the culprit might be but it’s fairly obvious to any seasoned crime novel reader. Gillian Flynn is the more superior writer when it comes to psychological thrillers because this felt more like a character study and their development than something to be shocked about. There was a lot of hype surrounding this book catapulting off Gone Girl’s success which ended up seducing me into its covers but I was left disappointed and unsatisfied in the end.

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Under the Greenwood Tree (Film)

08/17/2015 at 4:00 AM (Books, Movies) (, , , , , )

Recently I had the opportunity to watch the 2015 released movie Far From the Madding Crowd based on the literary classic by Thomas Hardy starring Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba, who attracts the following characters as suitors: Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts); Frank Troy (Tom Sturridge); and William Boldwood (Michael Sheen). I’ve already blogged about the adaption that features Paloma Baeza before so this post is about the consequences of me watching this re-release as it led to me to seek out another Hardy adaptation, based on the bookUnder the Greenwood Tree.

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L to R: Mr Shinar, Parson Maybold, Fancy Day & Dick Dewy (Source)

In this story, a beautiful, young and educated new schoolteacher Fancy Day (Keeley Hawes) has come to live in the village of Mellstock while taking care of her sick father. Her father’s goal is to see Fancy married well because he married for love which had bad repercussions for Fanny’s mother. Like Bathsheba Everdene, Fancy is pursued by three very different suitors: poor but passionate Dick Dewy (James Murray), the mature but wealthiest man in in town Mr Shinar (Steve Pemberton) and the arrogant but educated man of the world Parson Maybold (Ben Miles). Her father believes Mr Shinar is the best of prospects for her and hides the truth from Fancy when he is rescued by one of the other suitors, whom he believes is below her station. But Fancy discovers the truth and ends up choosing simple love although she is offered wealth and the world. In the middle of romantic quandaries, a new harmonium that is to be played at the local church by Fancy Day is being introduced by Parson Maybold and the former church choir consisting of mostly simple farm parishioners aren’t taking it too well and their pranks cause her some distress and embarrassment.

Surprisingly this Hardy adaptation had a happy ending compared to his other work but I hear the book is different in character portrayal. Here’s a good in-depth review of the book as I’ve yet to read it! I like this assessment and it applies to the Under the Greenwood Tree adaption as well, “The question is not about her choice but about whether it is the right one — a question that cannot be answered by the end…”.

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Open House Melbourne 2015

08/11/2015 at 2:50 AM (Architecture, Buildings, Events, Melbourne, Photography) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Well, it’s been a long time since my last post. I’ve been busy travelling on the weekends & reading less on my commute but this does mean I’ve built up an arsenal of photos.  Anyway on a cold blustery winter weekend, I had my boyfriend accompany me to the 2015 Open House Melbourne. I don’t repeat buildings I’ve previously visited so I managed to make it to 10 new venues this time.

Melbourne Cricket Ground 

© Sarasi Peiris

First on the agenda was the Melbourne Cricket Ground Tour at 10 AM. While it also included a walk to external spaces of the Tennis Centre precinct and AAMI park, the tour didn’t quite meet my expectations as it was meant to also include visits to the player change rooms, pitch and the long room. We did get to stand in the members reserve section to take photos though. Apart from that, the tour attendees were provided insight into the logistics of running events at the MCG and treated to some interesting trivia including the etymology of the phrase “hat trick”. After I returned home, there was an email apologising about the tour having changed from the one originally advertised but I guess we did attend for free.

DesignInc

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© Sarasi Peiris

We only left the MCG at a quarter to eleven so I decided to fit in a couple of CBD buildings. The second building I visited was an open plan work space utilised by an architecture and design firm, DesignInc. It is located within the former GPO building but access was interesting as it required entry through a lane I previously didn’t even know about, Postal Lane. There is also an external courtyard and greenery through the use of plants was a defining feature. The studio explained how they had to work with H & M to preserve the heritage features of the old GPO while also allowing it the functionalities of a retail space.

Council House 2 (CH2) 

© Sarasi Peiris

After walking down one more block, we lined up in the queue for the 10-storey Council House 2 (CH2) as it only took 20 people every 20 minutes. A man walking past commented, “What are you lining up for? breakfast? “. He was a bit off the mark given it was almost 12.30 pm at that point. After viewing a presentation featuring how green technologies were incorporated into the office design which you can see more of here, we were able to make a trip to the rooftop garden using a combination of the lift and several flights of stairs.

Government House

© Sarasi Peiris

Next on my itinerary was Government House, the largest residential building in Australia, which served as the official residence of the Governor of Victoria after it was completed in 1876. The House which was designed by architect William Wardell now is also used as a venue for constitutional, ceremonial and community events. The 11 hectares of gardens which has survived its original design by Joseph Sayce in 1873 was later subject to several  improvements by William Guilfoyle through the use of exotic varieties of plants. Ceremonial trees planted by various members of the royal family line the main drive because foreign dignitaries can often be guests of Government House.  

Luna Park

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© Sarasi Peiris

Lucky last was our 3.30 PM behind-the-scenes tour of Luna Park. I would have squeezed in another building but the boyfriend was really hungry so we stopped to refuel him. This tour led us to through a secret door which held the old Scenic Railway which is 102 years old, to the inside of the restored 100-year-old Carousel and through the tracks of the Ghost Train, which was previously called The Pretzel. We were also taken to a newly built open-floor function space which provided a good view of the park and even beyond to St Kilda beach. My highlight was learning that the taxidermy dog in the Ghost Train section was donated by an old lady who wanted her beloved pet immortalised as a ghost.

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© Sarasi Peiris

Given this was the last year the horses were to be stationed at the operational headquarters of the Mounted Police in Victoria, this large stable building drew in a large crowd and hence created a long wait; I lined up at 10.05 AM and got in to the tour at 11.15 AM. The police in Victoria have used horses since the Military Mounted Police rode into the colony in 1836 and the establishment of Victoria Police in 1853 brought several mounted units together and created a cohesive whole. Horse and rider numbers increased until they reached a peak period in early 1900 with 211 stations but the introduction of the motorcar brought about their gradual decline and downfall. The best part of the tour was watching the horses demo playing soccer.

Argus Building

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© Sarasi Peiris

This building was originally designed as a home for the Argus newspaper between 1924 and 1926.  During its burgeoning period, 700 staff members occupied this building. After the newspaper closed in 1957, the place was used for several purposes which unfortunately resulted in permanent changes to the original facade, interiors and central light well. It is now home to the CBD campus of the Melbourne Institute of Technology. The only original interior that survived is the restored former Advertising Hall.

Hotel Windsor

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© Sarasi Peiris

This hotel designed by architect Charles Webb used to be called The Grand but was renamed The Windsor after His Royal Highness Edward, Prince of Wales visited in 1920. It is the only surviving example of an opulent 19th century luxury hotel in Melbourne. When first constructed and it opened its doors in 1883, it was one of Victoria’s largest hotels. It is also a precursor to all the following grand hotels: The Savoy, London; The Ritz, Paris; Plaza, New York. Unfortunately self-guided tours only granted access to the Grand Ballroom and the majority of the lobby.

Eildon Mansion

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© Sarasi Peiris

Given most of the Route 3a and 16 trams weren’t operating or were subject to delays, the only way I was able to get to this Renaissance Revival style mansion which was built in the 19th century, was by taking the Route 96 tram. This mansion was owned by Mr Ferit Ymer from 1951 where he and his wife raised their six kids while also running a boarding house between the 1950s and 1980s. Accommodation was specifically created for singles, couples or new immigrants to Melbourne. However in later years this business declined and the clientage started to become backpackers after extensive restorations by two of the owners sons in 2004. Now it is home to the Alliance Francaise who had organised lots of fun activities for the day including a French breakfast, scavenger hunt for parents and kids and free 30-minute French lessons at set times throughout the day.

Esplanade Vaults

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© Sarasi Peiris

When the new cable tramway replaced the old horse-drawn omnibus on St Kilda’s Upper Esplanade, the roadway had to widened to allow for the tram tracks. This enabled 10 shops with arched ceilings and verandahs to face the Sea Baths on the Lower Esplanade. The shops sold merchandise suited to a seaside locale such as ice-cream, confectionery, fish & chips and swimwear and a projector displayed old photographs depicting such scenes inside the vaults. Tea rooms were also part of the shops. However while the tramway became a success, the shop verandahs were removed in the 1950s and the vaults bricked up when Jacka Boulevard needed widening in the 1970s.

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