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Gone Girl

I’m still reading Edmund de Waal’s The Hare with Amber Eyes, though I keep finding reasons to interrupt it. When I wrote about it two weeks ago, I was very much enjoying the first part, about the author’s great-grandfather’s first cousin Charles Ephrussi and his life in Paris in the late 1800s. (As we learn, Charles was a friend and patron of the leading Impressionists, as well as a model for Marcel Proust’s character Charles Swann.) Yet, inspired by Natalie Bakopoulos’s Sunday NYT review of Thad Ziolkowski’s new novel Wichita, I put the Ephrussi family aside to read it. Next thing I knew, I was reading Ziolkowski’s short memoir of his surfing youth from a decade ago, On a Wave.

No sooner had I returned to Charles and Paris than Janet Maslin’s NYT review of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl appeared a week ago. I knew nothing of Flynn or her earlier work, but I was intrigued:

“Gone Girl” is this author’s third novel, after “Sharp Objects” and “Dark Places.” “Dark Places,” in particular, drew attention from mystery aficionados, but “Gone Girl” is Ms. Flynn’s dazzling breakthrough. It is wily, mercurial, subtly layered and populated by characters so well imagined that they’re hard to part with — even if, as in Amy’s case, they are already departed.

And if you have any doubts about whether Ms. Flynn measures up to Patricia Highsmith’s level of discreet malice, go back and look at the small details. Whatever you raced past on a first reading will look completely different the second time around.

I headed over to Amazon to download a sample, only to discover that Maslin’s review was a preview. The book wasn’t even out yet. The publication date is tomorrow. I pre-ordered it.

Well, what next? I had also been working my way through John Jeremiah Johnson’s essay collection Pulphead. I didn’t want to find myself reading three books at once. My solution: I would read to the end of the Paris section of The Hare with Amber Eyes, switch to Pulphead, and finish it just in time for tomorrow’s release of Gone Girl.

The plan might have worked, but Pulphead ended too soon. I’m back to The Hare with Amber Eyes, immersed in the world of early twentieth-century Vienna and the lives of Edmund de Waal’s great-grandparents, Viktor and Emmy Ephrussi.

Looming over the Paris and Vienna sections of the book is the specter of anti-Semitism. The Ephrussis are among the wealthiest families of Europe. They are giants of commerce, art, philanthropy. Their homes are an urban, continental version of Downton Abbey, servants and all. Yet, as Edmund details, however assimilated they may be, they are Jewish, and they are subjects of scorn and ridicule. It’s not going to end well. Painful reading ahead.

Which might be just the reason to put it aside again. I could read a thriller. Like that new book Gone Girl, out tomorrow. Perfect timing. Then back to Edmund de Waal’s astonishing and alarming tale.

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