Gillian Flynn Recommends Books on Marriages Gone Toxic

“Gone Girl is, at its nasty little heart, about a marriage gone toxic, so I’ll keep to that theme,” writes bestselling novelist and RIF Guest Editor Gillian Flynn.

“Here are four brilliantly written books about husbands and wives who drive each other to dark extremes.”

The War of the Roses
By Warren Adler

The divorcing Roses go to battle over their beautiful home and the objects in it – and take revenge to stunning heights. You may have seen the fantastic 1989 film with Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas, but the book is even more terrifying, black-humored, black-hearted and bristling, because you’re trapped inside the self-justifying, increasingly mad minds of Oliver and Barbara Rose.

Until the Twelfth of Never: The Deadline Divorce of Dan and Betty Broderick
By Bella Stumbo

One of the best-written, least-known true crime books around. In 1989, wealthy Betty Broderick shot her ex-husband – a lawyer – and his new younger wife as they slept. The case became a sensation (and the subject of a genuinely gripping TV movie starring Meredith Baxter); true-crime blogs still light up today with discussion over whose fault it all was.

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The book is a study of a marriage gone bad and a divorce gone worse, of greed, ambition, ego, cruelty and revenge. It’s part woman scorned, part divorce-law primer, part battle of the sexes, part damnation of the money-obsessed ‘80s. Ultimately, it’s a marital tragedy of Shakespearian proportions.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
By Edward Albee

“My arm has gotten tired whipping you,” Martha hisses at her husband, George, during one round of their particularly brutal and seemingly endless marital war. Even if you’ve seen it performed, it’s a must-read just to take in the unbelievably ingenious (cruel, hilarious, stunning) dialogue. I took it on a camping trip last year, started reading it before bed, and stayed up all through the night because it felt like my blood had gone radioactive.

By Ron Rash

Serena and George Pendleton have a marriage of passion and lust. Lust for each other, and for the power and money that comes from their massive logging enterprise, which is ravenously denuding the North Carolina mountains. Set during the Great Depression, Ron Rash’s novel has a decidedly Elizabethan flavor, as Serena and her husband aspire to ever greater trespasses. Serena, ruthlessly lording about the ruined forest with her vicious pet eagle, is an anti-heroine for the ages.

gillian-flynnGILLIAN FLYNN’s debut novel, Sharp Objects, was an Edgar Award finalist and the winner of two of Britain’s Dagger Awards. She lives in Chicago with her husband, Brett Nolan, their son, and a rather giant cat named Roy. In theory she is working on her next novel. In reality she is possibly playing Ms. Pac-Man in her basement lair. Gone Girl is available wherever books are sold. Want a sneak peek? Get an Exclusive First Read of Gone Girl at

Visit Gillian online at and on Facebook.

Watch Read It Forward’s video chat with Gillian Flynn below! She reveals where her evil female characters come from, why she lets her characters guide her through the writing process, and what her husband thought when he read Gone Girl.

About Kira Walton

KIRA WALTON has been stalking books all her life as a college English teacher, bookseller, book club consultant, author, and editor.

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