Gone Girl ★ ★ ★ ★
I’ve been completely fangirling over Gillian Flynn since her debut Sharp Objects six years ago. It remains one of my all-time-favorites, along with Flynn’s sophomore novel Dark Places. No one writes the inner workings of warped and damaged human psychology better than this woman. With complete conviction I place her in the same category alongside the likes of Flannery O’Connor and Shirley Jackson. Flynn has a devilish, uncanny flair for creating memorable characters and twisty plots that drive down unexpected roads shrouded in fog the end of which you cannot see until you’re smack upon it.
So you can bet I’ve been anxiously awaiting this latest release with agonized, bated breath. Despite missing some of the texture and nuances of her first two books, this time out Flynn has offered up a bonafide page turner of the sordid, sensationalist kind that makes summer reading oh-so-sweet. Trust me when I say, if you’re only going to take one book to the beach or cottage this summer, it’s gotta be Gone Girl.
I’m also going to encourage you to avoid all reviews (except this one, haha!) before you pick this up. Even more than her other novels, Gone Girl is so easy to spoil. Which is why I’m going to say very little about the actual inner workings of the story itself.
A list of lovables:
Narrative voice: What makes Gone Girl such a compulsive read is the alternating points of view. Dueling voices in any novel can result in epic fail, especially when the voices are so similar as to be indistinguishable. If you’re going to tell the story from different points of view, you better make sure the points of view are actually…different. I don’t think I’ve ever seen alternating voices handled so effectively as they are here with husband Nick and wife Amy. As you read, you begin to wonder if either of these narrators are in the least reliable, if you’re perhaps not getting full disclosure after all. I absolutely adored that pernicious doubt and shifting sympathies. It’s like watching nature programs that can be shot to make you cheer for the wolf pack one week, and for the moose the week after.
Is this manipulative? You bet it is! But trust me, being manipulated by a master like Flynn is sheer delight.
Media as judge, jury and executioner: C’mon, we all know it don’t we? Murder suspects of every sort and circumstance are tried first in the media and found guilty or innocent before the case ever makes it to trial. Before an arrest is even made, pundits, “news” anchors and bloggers put forth his or her theories and “insights” decrying yay or nay. You’ve seen Nancy Grace at work, haven’t you? Flynn does a wonderful job here of dissecting our at times unhealthy, obsessive appetite for the sordid. How our voracious consumption of mass media provokes sympathy or outrage, how easily we are influenced to see a person as a saint or a devil. Innocent until proven guilty? Not so much these days. And good luck finding an impartial jury. Change of venue? With the meteoric rise of social media, you would have to go all the way to Mars in some instances in order to enlist “untainted” jurors.
The only thing humans do with more conviction than fall in love is fall out of love: Love is grand, marriage can be a beautiful, wonderful thing…except when it isn’t. The rise and fall of any relationship carries within it the potential to be staggering in scope and severity. What we once adored about one another, we now loathe. What we lingered over and savored to the last sub-atomic particle, we now want to obliterate from our awareness, pull an eternal sunshine of the spotless mind if you please. Oh yeah, I think we’ve all been there. More than anything, Flynn is putting gender relations and the perils of romance under a microscope, and her scrutiny doesn’t miss a thing. It’s tawdry, and titillating, and twisted, and didn’t I already say the perfect effing read for this summer??? You bet.
The only fly in the ointment here is that Flynn manages heaping amounts of sensational, but only moderate traces of substance. This novel’s engine runs on the nitroglycerin of shocking twists and the suspension of disbelief. Flynn largely ignores the gritty demands of realism here as they will only act as sugar in the gasoline, binding and stalling a story that has taken flight like a jet-fueled rocket bound for stratospheric heights. When you are strapped on to that rocket, you won’t be worrying about realism though. Or subtleties. You’ll be banging on the table like Harry’s Sally screaming – yes! yes! oh YES!
Except in this case, you’ll mean it. I didn’t have to fake a single thing 🙂