Monday, March 10, 2014

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

I put this book on my holds list at the library with great reluctance.  It was immensely popular, and I usually hate immensely popular books.  They make me sad for America – this is what we think is great literature these days, guys? Sparkly control-freak vampires and neurotic pseudo-intellectuals?  Candy-fluff romance?  Eeeeew.  And at first blush, this sounded like chick-lit to me...unhappy  wife, rough spot in the marriage.  Blah blah blah.  But Gone Girl actually deserves its hype.

On the morning of their anniversary, Nick Dunne comes home from work to find his wife, Amy, has disappeared.  There are signs of a struggle in their home, but no ransom note, no clues to a kidnapper, are forthcoming.  As the days pass, the police’s suspcions come to rest more and more squarely on Nick.  The book slowly unravels from a whodunit, to a whatisit, ending in a whoa-wait-what?  Told from Amy and Nick’s alternating perspectives, the reader slowly becomes aware that both of them have unexpected secrets and motives for the events set in train that anniversary morning.  It’s engaging, original, and has a couple of deliciously horrifying twists. 

Stop reading here if you don’t want to know any further details of the plot.  Come back and read the rest of this post after you finish the book if you want to know more about what I thought.  Seriously, spoilers ahead.  STOP NOW!


Still with me?    Ok, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The thing I liked best about this book was how you didn’t know who was telling the truth for half the book.  You start off with Nick’s perspective on discovering the disappearance and the disorder in the house, but you feel like he’s not quite telling you everything he knows.  He definitely doesn’t confess to being guilty of whatever happened to his wife; but he does paint himself as a basically decent guy, and Amy as shrewish, controlling woman.   Then you start getting Amy’s perspective through her past diary entries.  And she tells the opposite story; she’s the one who’s trying to make their marriage work in a difficult situation, but Nick becomes increasingly distant and hateful, to the point that she’s afraid for her safety with him.   So for the first half of the book, you’re reading along and thinking “Which one of them do I believe?”  Then you get to the second half of the book and all becomes clear.   The intricacy of the plot revealed in this second half of the book is pretty amazing; I couldn’t have come up with it in fifty years of trying.

Another thing I really liked about this book was the sheer evilness of the villain, when s/he was revealed.  (I’m about to give away something big; stop reading here if you don’t want to know.) I read a post on Gillian Flynn’s website about one of her earlier novels, in which she explained how keenly she felt the lack of really intrinsically evil females in literature, who aren't bad because they were jilted and out for revenge, or because daddy didn't love them enough, or what have you.  She wanted to write about women who were bad just because they were bad, like Hannibal Lector or Nurse Ratchet or...or...Emperor Palpatine, for Pete's sake. I haven't read Gillian's other novels (although they are on my list), but I have to say that in the case of Gone Girl, she succeeded.

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