BookBin2014: Gone Girl


New year, time to start the new BookBin litany. Of course, I’m still promising to get through all the books from my own collection that I need to read…and now that I have them all properly arranged in one place thanks to relocating to a new domicile that has, of all wondrous things, denizens, my very own reading den, I see how many books I own that I have never read. It’s alarming.

So what did I do? I went to the library and checked out a stack of books…including the book that I saw most frequently at the top of people’s book stacks last year: Gillian Flynn’s suspense thriller Gone Girl.

I was a bit worried about getting this book, which was why I avoided picking it up last year whenever I saw a copy available in the New Releases section. I’m infamous for balking at those things most people bury under mounds of hyperbolic praise. There is nothing more difficult sometimes than living up to other people’s hype. Amplify that hype through the ever-present, always wired online echo chamber and good luck trying to hear an honest opinion above the roar.

However, I recently read a book-to-movie list for 2014, and Gone Girl was there, directed by David Fincher, one of my favorite modern filmmakers. I decided this was the push that I needed to finally read this novel.

Here’s a quick snippet of the “official” description:

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick Dunne’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick Dunne isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but hearing from Amy through flashbacks in her diary reveal the perky perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge.

Under mounting pressure from the police and the media – as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents – the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter – but is he really a killer? As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister Margo at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was left in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

That’s all I’m going to give in regard to plot. I’d hate to give away anything here, as this is a suspense novel. Part of the fun of these stories, I’m told, is figuring out the mystery for yourself. I found that some of the twists in this novel become quite obvious, especially as you get a better feel for the truth hidden among the flotsam of falsities that saturate this story. Some twists are less obvious, but if you’re paying close enough attention, especially to those “innocuous” throw-away lines, you’ll be okay.

Admittedly, I found that I couldn’t put down this novel. This became a problem in the evenings, since I usually read as a means of mellowing out and shifting into “sleep” mode. This book did not make me want to sleep. It made me want to keep reading. I finally capitulated to this need and spent the better part of this past weekend devouring the remainder of this novel.

My general opinion of Gone Girl is that Flynn is a masterful writer who apparently has chosen to specialize in showcasing some of the worst that humanity has to offer. I disliked practically every character. I think, though, that’s the point. Apparently, Flynn wants us to believe that some people live their awful lives, surrounded by equally awful people…or people far more awful than they could ever aspire to become. For Flynn, awful attracts awful. Twisted forms more twisted. Repulsive is the new black.

Then there is the ending. Many people hate the ending. Many view it as a cop-out. Many view it as ruinous. I can understand these reactions. I didn’t experience any of these responses, but I think that’s because I was not invested in any of these characters. I realized pretty early on that I didn’t care what happened to any of them. I was more fascinated by Flynn’s writing and her incredibly warped sensibilities…watching how she tied the knots and then watching how she would untangle them all in the end. I might have experienced some sympathy for a couple of the characters, but that didn’t last long. If anything, they are interesting to observe before leaving them behind and thanking your lucky stars that you don’t know anyone who even remotely resembles any of these people.

If you do know people like the ones in a Flynn novel, I’m supremely sorry.

I didn’t think the ending was all that out-of-character. I also didn’t have any other preferred ending in mind. I know many people were probably looking for an ending in which certain characters received retribution. No one likes to think that bad people can get away with doing bad things. Sadly, though, it happens all the time in real life…and we apparently want all our escapism to be just the same as the reality we’re seeking to escape. So…retribution denied.

As for the movie, I’m actually pretty on-board with most of the casting. I think Rosamund Pike will make a great Amy Elliott Dunne. I actually think Ben Affleck will make a good Nick Dunne. I do wish they were closer in age, but that’s an aesthetic complaint only at this point. Strangely enough, I was actually picturing Neil Patrick Harris as Desi Collings in my mind as I read the novel, so I’m obviously okay with his casting. I disagree with Tyler Perry as Tanner Bolt, but that’s because I disagree with Tyler Perry. Kim Dickens was a surprise to me as Detective Rhonda Boney, but that’s another aesthetic gripe (the novel’s Boney does not sound like she would look at all like Dickens). I really hope that Emily Ratajkowski can do more than make “duck face,” because she’s going to be really irritating if she can’t.

Final Verdict: I don’t think I want to add this novel to my own collection. It has made me want to seek out at least one more example of Flynn’s writing style, but probably not for a while. I don’t know if I want to submerge myself so soon into the warped psyches of the inhabitants of Flynn’s world. However, I will be keeping an eye on movie news. I might even go see this in the theater. Probably not…but you never know!