Friday, October 24, 2014

Gone Girl (No Spoilers)

Gone Girl
© 2012 Gillian Flynn
432 pages



Gone Girl is a dark pleasure, a thriller driven by loathsome people whose greatest achievements are an exercise in sociopathy. Like The Sopranos or The Tudors,  the story is a gripping one, utterly captivating and visceral -- but it leaves one feeling somewhat guilty for having enjoyed such misery so much.  The story opens on Nick Dunne, with a Ken-Doll face and an empty interior. He has little personality to recommend him, but when he arrives home to a disrupted living room and a missing wife,  there's some sympathy to be had. When he mentions off-hand that an innocent comment was his fifth lie to the police, however, the mystery starts.  Told in two parts -- Nick, narrating the present-day aftermath of his wife's vanishing and said wife Amy's diary entries covering the years of their dating and marriage --   Gillian Flynn's story is a series of unsettling exposures preceding a massive upset.

What little sympathy the reader develops for Nick, suspected of murder by a city that's seen too many true-crime dramas, evaporates as we spend time with him. He is an unreliable narrator, hiding things from the reader and reflexively lying to even those trying to help him. At the same time,  the Nick as witnessed through Amy's diary is decidedly a failure as a husband; not because he disappoints her (she's ever so long-suffering), but that he is contemptible by every measure of husbandry. Her record of his selfish, cruel, and bordering-on-violent behavior coupled with the deceit he offers to the reader makes him very, very, suspicious. But it's a thriller, a mystery, and how exciting would it be if a suspicious husband accused of murdering his wife actually murdered her?  There's obviously more to the story, but what makes Gone Girl's  unavoidable twist exceptional  is that it utterly alters the character of the book; the reader's entire reality collapses as a third persona enters the ring and makes a murder-mystery into a psychological war of attrition, one that commands attention. This is one of those books that made me despair of work, meals, and bedtime, because I wanted  to keep reading it even though it grew darker and more gratuitous all the while. The morbidity doesn't cease with the ending, but it's appropriate in a way.

In the end, I'm left feeling like I do after a season of Sons of Anarchy or a similarly violent-albeit-compelling show. It's exciting stuff, yes, but I don't know that I would go around urging others to read it. The viciousness is a little much. Like Dean Koontz's The Good Guy, there's a limit to how morally revolting a character I can spend headspace time in.

Related:
I was reminded of Greg Iles' Sleep No More and Third Degree


3 comments:

  1. I picked a copy of this up a few weeks ago - hence I only briefly skimmed your review. Then again, if past events are anything to go by, I probably won't read it for 5-10 years..... [grin]

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  2. I usually try to spoil as little as possible, but went for even more discretion here considering the film is in theaters. I'm glad I didn't read any Goodreads reviews before I started reading this book -- the place is a minefield of twists revealed.

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  3. Sounds cool.... I shall look forward to it - eventually.

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