Friday, 3 October 2014

'Gone Girl' by Gillian Flynn (2012)

Synopsis: On the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, a man called Nick Dunne comes home to find that his wife Amy has vanished. The front door has been left wide open and there are signs of a struggle. Nick and Amy's marriage has been strained for quite some time. After they both lost their jobs in New York City they moved to a house in Nick's home town in Missouri which was much to Amy's displeasure. Amy is the beautiful daughter of two famous authors who wrote a series of children's books based on her life so naturally her disappearance creates a media frenzy. It's not long before both the police and the media identify Nick as their prime suspect. There's a strange search in his browser history, there's some odd activity in his bank account, and he seems unemotional in front of the cameras and news teams. Nick pleads his innocence but only his twin sister Margo believes him. His case looks doomed. Gone Girl is told in alternating perspectives. We read Nick's present-day narration in addition to Amy's diary which starts seven years earlier.

Warning! I won't be able to review this book without giving some major spoilers away. Also if you're a fan of this book then you might want to stop reading now. I thought it was terrible.

Up until very recently I hadn't been remotely interested in Gone Girl. I'm just not into thriller novels. I've never felt the slightest interest in reading anything by James Patterson, John Grisham, Lee Child, David Baldacci and authors of that ilk. So even when I kept hearing about this book I didn't feel any great urge to read it. But in the end I was finally won over when I saw the trailer for the upcoming film adaptation. The film stars Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike and Neil Patrick Harris with David Fincher directing. The trailer is great - very tense and atmospheric - and it made me think "Ah, okay, I might just have to read the book after all!"

In my copy of this book, both its opening and closing pages are full of quotes from literary critics who gush over the book's "brilliant writing", "psychological complexity", "suspense" and "thought-provoking themes". Now sometimes I agree with the critics and sometimes I don't. This is one of those occasions when I really didn't. I think the writing in Gone Girl is completely mediocre. I found the prose workmanlike and not at all special. The book is full of disgusting sexual references and strong profanity. I certainly didn't find this book suspenseful or gripping. I found the vast majority of the book incredibly tedious. And the characters are so unbelievable!

Nick and Amy are both extremely unlikeable, horrible and messed-up people but they're unbelievably so. I'm not one of those readers who can't enjoy books unless they feature characters that I can like and relate to. I can think of quite a few books that I've loved which feature a lot of unlikeable characters: Wuthering Heights, The Great Gatsby, Macbeth, Tess of the D'Ubervilles. Heck, the main character in Lolita is a paedophile! I won't mind if the main characters in a book aren't likeable just as long as they're fascinating and well-developed. Nick and Amy aren't. Amy is supposed to be a psychopathic evil genius. She's supposed to be brilliant and manipulative. She's spent almost a year planning to frame her husband for her murder in perfect, meticulous detail. And yet as soon as Amy disappears she turns into a gullible, incompetent idiot! She gets tricked by her neighbours and robbed after only a few days. She falls for Nick all over again when she watches him give a "heartfelt" interview on TV. Nick didn't deserve to be framed for murder but he's no less annoying to read about. He shows no concern about Amy whatsoever when she vanishes! He just keeps complaining endlessly and endlessly about how everyone takes everything he says the wrong way and how miserable his marriage was. And this is long before Nick knows that Amy's framed him for murder so he should be feeling concerned about her! What kind of a man doesn't express any concern for his wife when she vanishes?! I don't care that Nick and Amy's marriage was on the rocks. I don't care that some people might think I'm a naive idealist. I refuse to believe that anyone could act that way.

Some of the critics seem to like Gone Girl because they think it provides a thought-provoking commentary on marriage and how two people can never really know each other. But how?! :S How does the book pull off these themes exactly? How many people get so ticked off with their spouse for having an affair that they decide to fake their death and frame them for murder? How many people marry a psychopath without realising it? The book can't be providing a commentary on all marriages and relationships!

I came very close to giving up on Gone Girl numerous times. I only finished it because I'd heard that this book had a controversial ending and I felt I should probably give my opinion on it. My opinion? Hahahahahaha! Seriously?! Oh wow! It's absolutely ridiculous! I'm guessing that even the film-makers know it sucks because it's been confirmed that the film adaptation has changed the ending. That - and the film's cast and director - makes me think that the film will probably be an improvement on the book but I'm in no hurry to see if that's the case. I'm not going to see the film at the cinema now. This will be one of those "Wait until it's out on TV" movies. 

This book and I are 100% done.

Rating: 0.5/5


samara said...

You've voiced several of my frustrations as well. I did find a few things I thought Flynn did well:

- balancing the narrative between 2 characters (and multiple voices). My mom's written murder mysteries (I know - cool, right?), so I know it can be quite a challenge to lay out what characters are concealing and revealing, etc...

- her argument about the "Cool Girl" was one of the most powerful and compelling aspects of the novel. That, more than any of the characters or plot devices, has stuck with me and made me think.

Overall though, while I found it a page-turner, I didn't really enjoy it. And by the end I was just terrified that psychopaths like Amy could exist.

bookwormans said...

I was also considering reading this after seeing the film trailer, but I'll be skipping it now. Thanks for the review!

Hamlette said...

Thank you! Not wasting my time on it now.

Hamlette said...

Thank you! Not wasting my time on it now.