Friday, November 22, 2013

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

My Rating: 4.0 / 5.0

Amazon Rating: 3.80 / 5.00
Goodreads Rating: 3.93 / 5.00

Nick Dunne returns home on his fifth wedding anniversary to find his house in a mess and his wife, Amy, missing. He is the most obvious suspect in her suspicious disappearance and it does not take the police very long to start grilling him and tearing apart his supposedly happy marriage. As we follow Nick’s struggles with the police and local media we follow their initial courtship through Amy’s diary. This reveals that Amy comes from very wealthy parents who have a totally ideal partnership and write children’s books about Amazing Amy. She and Nick are both brilliant and beautiful, making the perfect couple as they waft through life on a cushion of Amy’s money and their charm.

Then life goes wrong. They both lose their jobs and are forced to move from the glamor of New York to the backside of nowhere, Missouri, where they need to care for Nick’s ill parents. Amy hates living without the vivacious whirlwind of the big city and her diary entries outline the cracks that appear in their marriage and Nick becomes increasingly resentful of Amy’s money, even though it is the only thing keeping them afloat. It soon becomes clear that she is scared for her life and Nick is not being entirely truthful.

It is impossible to really review this title without revealing at least one massive spoiler, so I will begin with a few points that will not spoil the ending and then give you fair warning of when to stop reading.

The initial premise of this title sounded very intriguing and I was not quite sure what to expect when I started it. Unlike most Thrillers, we do not have a simple exploration of the facts by a detective. Rather, we follow all the events through the eyes of some highly unreliable narrators so that our perceptions of the main characters are constantly shifting. This makes it a very enjoyable read, especially if you like character-driven fiction, as I do. However, it can also be a little frustrating as you attempt to sort through the facts trying to find the underlying truth of the situation: just when you feel that you have a good handle on what happened you will suddenly learn an important fact that turns everything on its head. I loved this, but I know that not everyone will.

Another problem that some of the book group expressed was with the rather unpleasant characters involved. On the whole, everyone of any importance is revealed to be an unrelentingly awful human being, which some of the group found a little too negative for their taste. Although I can understand their desire to have at least one ‘good’ character to follow, I am also willing to accept that most people are not perfect. It is also clear that most of the ‘bad’ characters are products of their upbringing, circumstances and bad decisions rather than simple, two-dimensional ‘evil’ people. We also see people who are trying to be good but who simply cannot manage to live up to that ideal.

In short: if you want an uncomplicated story of nice people doing sensible things, you should probably avoid this title.

Spoilers Ahead!

I mentioned above that we have few ‘good’ people in this book and that most definitely refers to our leads: Nick and Amy. Just as we are convinced that Nick is guilty of Amy’s murder we discover that his big secret is an affair and also that she has faked her own abduction to punish him. After this turning point our opinions of the couple swerve backwards and forwards as we uncover more and more about their personalities and lives. Ultimately, we learn that they are both narcissistic and unable to take responsibility for their own lives and emotions.

Their marriage is all sparkle and show, but is based on what they both thought would be a good idea at the time rather than love and respect. It is doomed to failure and collapses when placed under the strain of lost jobs and ill parents. Amy is too much of a perfectionist, demanding and overly critical of Nick, who is happy to simply slide through life. He resents her easy access to money, while she hates the parents that supply it because she is constantly expected to live up to the fictional Amazing Amy that they created. They are two people who should never have made the commitment to marry, but did and were than too stubborn, in Amy’s case, or indebted and lazy, in Nick’s, to realize that they should walk away from one another. 

Once it is revealed that Amy is alive it is easy to feel sorry for Nick, but it soon becomes clear that he is a man-child who is just as responsible for this mess as she is. He has drifted through life and developed an amazing ability to whine and moan about the Things Holding Him Back. He loses his job because of the rise of e-magazines and blogs, even though there are still plenty of journalists working for these organizations. Could it be that he is actually not very good as a writer? I think so. We see him spending his life stroking his own ego and occasionally condescending to dispense some of his genius as a written article to his highly unimpressed editor. Believe me, if I had been his editor he would have been the first out of the door when the downsizing came into view.

His attitude to women made me want to kick him in the balls . . . repeatedly. He is so tired of women throwing themselves at him and forcing him to have sex with them. They are so needy and always trying too hard or, if they are bitches, they simply drop him and move on. Poor baby: his life is so hard! He resents Amy for effectively paying for everything and yet he still does not get off his backside and make a serious effort to earn some cash. But it is still her fault that he feels unmanned, so he has to have an affair to make him feel better about himself. Vomit!

So, what about Amy: if Nick is such a total loser, then surely she is the good person that we should support and cheer on as she frames him for her murder? Erm, nope: she is almost exactly as irritating and deserving of physical pain as her errant husband. She is nauseatingly brilliant, beautiful and talented, but that is just a mask to hide the true psychopath lurking underneath. She is utterly ruthless about getting what she wants and nobody, NOBODY, gets away with saying “No!” to her. It is slowly revealed that she is a master manipulator who has destroyed a man by falsely accusing him of rape at least once in her life. She hates and despises all other women for some totally illogical reason and yet she can appear to be quite nice and normal when she wants to.

Basically, I wanted to lock both of them in a room and then burn down the house so that they would not be able to continue their navel-gazing, self-deluding behavior. Oh, and I would have chucked Amy’s amazingly irritating parents in their with them for good luck. It is a terrific read as long as you do not have a problem with wanting to punch many of the characters! :D

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