Friday, January 16, 2015

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

I didn't plan to read Gone Girl. I didn't plan to like it, either. But I asked my friends for suggestions of books to review, and TC suggested Gone Girl.

When Gone Girl came out in 2012, I read about it everywhere. The plot was intriguing, but it didn't sound like the kind of book I would enjoy reading. I don't enjoy scary books, or murder mysteries, or books where bad things happen to good people (or even to bad people). But I confess that I want to know what happens in these books, even if I don't want to read them myself. So I scour reviews (especially the ones that have spoiler alerts) for hints about the ending. Sometimes I read the last few pages on Amazon if I can. By the time I was done binge-reading reviews of Gone Girl, I had a pretty good idea of what happened in the book, including the twists and the incredibly depressing ending. [Spoiler Alert: This is as good a place as any to mention that if you haven't read the book or seen the movie--and you want to remain unspoiled--don't read the rest of this review!]

Then the movie came out a few months ago, and Gone Girl was all over the news again. I read all the think pieces about the differences in perspective between the book and the movie, about the changes necessary to make the plot work as a film, about whether Ben Affleck was the right choice to play Nick, about what the author Gillian Flynn thought of the movie (she adapted the screenplay herself). Again, I didn't actually want to see the movie--I just wanted to know all about it.

So this week I checked Gone Girl out of the library with some trepidation. Did I want to spend many hours reading a 415-page mystery when I already knew the ending? I started reading, however, and I am glad that I did. Most of the book is narrated by Nick Dunne (played by Ben Affleck in the movie), and as I started to read I was picturing Ben Affleck telling me the story. The characters Ben Affleck plays usually seem dumb and smarmy to me (whether they are supposed to be or not), so I was having trouble reconciling the Ben Affleck persona with the Nick Dunne persona. Nick Dunne was too intelligent and too good a writer to be played by Ben Affleck--and, in fact, Nick Dunne had been a writer before he lost his job at a NY magazine and moved back to the heartland to open a bar. But as I read further, Ben Affleck receded to the back of my mind and I was thoroughly gripped by Gillian Flynn's writing.

I knew that the sections that appear to be Amy Dunne's genuine diary (written over the course of five years) were actually written by Amy over the course of a few months, as she carefully sets in motion a plan to frame her husband Nick for her murder. I found Amy's voice in these diary entries fake and cloying--which was fine, because the diary was fake. But who knows what I would have thought of those diary entries if I hadn't know, going in, that they were fake?

I was surprised by how gripped I was by the book--I thought knowing the plot twists in advance would make the reading tedious, but, in fact, knowing the plot ahead of time gave me more time to consider how the author had worked to build up suspense, how she was setting up the reader (and Nick) for a fall, and how psychotic Amy actually was. Amy is truly a criminal mastermind--as is Gillian Flynn, by extension.

And the ending--so good, so right, so chilling. At the end of the day, isn't all marriage a bit of a prison sentence? [P.S. I am not talking about my own marriage, of course, as it is perfect.]


Patti Brennan said...

Well I have never read the book but I did see the movie AND I read your blog post and I completely agree - I knew the end of the movie and yet I was completely taken in --it's so easy to see the actors as we want to see them - and the characters too!

but what I really wanted to know is what crackers you ate while reading? I am a cracker-eater, and I think this book deserves plain pita chips with no embellishments!!!

Patti (from Ruth's book group!)

books and crackers said...

Thanks for your comment! I agree that plain pita chips would be the perfect cracker to eat while reading Gone Girl--sometimes they are so dry they are painful to eat.