April 10, 2013

Review :: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone GirlGone Girl by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Looking at some of the reviews for Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, I am left to wonder if I read the same book as my fellow bibliophiles. Multiple 5 star ratings appear on Goodreads and other internet sites. In the US, it was on the New York Times Bestseller list for eight weeks and was credited as being almost as big as Fifty Shades of Grey. In its first year of publication, over two million copies were sold. Reese Witherspoon’s production company, in conjunction with 20th Century Fox, will be turning it into a movie. Each of these factors clearly indicates that people have liked, enjoyed or loved this book.

The book, the story of Nick and Amy Dunne, portrays a marriage of one-up-man ship, where each character is desperate to be heard as the authority, where each character wants to have the final word. Within the first thirty pages, I learnt neither Nick nor Amy was going to be likeable and by the end, I hated both of them, wishing them all the joy in the world at being stuck, miserably together. Nick, the boy with a chip on his shoulder who grows into a man carrying a boulder and Amy, smug, narcissistic, and bitchy and most importantly, the most beautiful woman Nick has ever seen. Part of me believes this book only works because the characters are physically beautiful, therefore, able to capture the hearts and minds of Americans – the glossy, perfect couple at the pinnacle of what we, the lesser, average looking individuals, should aspire to. I cannot help but wonder if this book has done well because it is fake and over processed.

Sarah Rainey from The Telegraph quotes the publishers, suggesting the popularity of the book stemming from its female noir concept rather than chick lit. In part, I agree with the publishers, however, I feel there is too much manipulation from Flynn; a pushing of the reader into seeing this as a fable of marriage and its disasters rather than as a quasi-faux-feminist tale about how all the bad things in Amy’s life serve as the justification for her actions. Many people experience horrible moments in their lives but do not react like Amy.

Peter Craven for The Age, Australia, calls this book the thinking woman’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo replacement. I am not sure where this comparison is drawn from because there is no comparison.

The language of the book also managed to shock me. I am no prude when it comes to language; however, I was unimpressed. A majority of the swearing felt forced, as though the words did not convey the actual feeling of the character but were placed in the sentence to cover a gap. I wonder if perhaps this was a stylistic application for Flynn – an endeavour to push the reader further off balance and to create unease. This is specifically so in the case of Nick’s father, to whom we are barely introduced but are expected to believe from his ranting, is a misogynist. His appearances in the book see his constant muttering of “bitch”, which, in my reading, says more about his dementia than his opinion of women.

Where Nick’s father is created as a bully, his mother is created as a saint. A tried and true pairing. While the reader only has Amy’s unreliable point of view for this information, it builds an unstable dichotomy for the relationship. Just as unstable and unhealthy is the relationship of Amy’s parents, the Elliot’s. Fawning over each other and touching obsessively. It leaves you with that sick feeling.

Even the police work and forensic procedures in this book are flimsy. It raises the argument of how easily one could commit a crime and never face any consequences. This is perhaps the biggest annoyance for me. The complete lack of consequences for anyone in this book. No one takes responsibility for their actions, no one accepts their actions have been negative and harmful to the multiple other players and the ‘let’s just make each other miserable’ outcome succeeds in reaching out from the page and ensnaring the reader. It made me feel miserable. It made me feel that each one of us should strive to have healthy relationships with those around us. Life is not meant for being miserable, wishing and waiting for the end. Playing tricks.

Ultimately, I feel as though I have been tricked into reading this book, even though I made the conscious decision to buy and read it. In all honesty, I do not know to what kind of market I would recommend this book. Certainly not my parents, certainly not my work colleagues, certainly not the majority of my friends. This is a book individual readers need to come to independently of the hype.

Sarah Rainey

Peter Craven

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