It’s funny how things work out. I had seen Gone Girl on the shelves of various bookstores. I think I even checked it out of the library once but never got around to reading it. When the movie came out, I was intrigued and bought the novel to read on our trip to California. The same week, Jim called to say he had just seen the movie. So here is the first of two reviews—of the book and, in the next post, the film.
I am not sure how best to describe my experience. If I wanted to be purely subjective, I would say, “I didn’t enjoy it.” Such a dark and hopeless perspective. There is no good guy to cheer for. Only characters with varying degrees of badness. But to say that I didn’t enjoy it would not be to say that I wasn’t drawn in. As Jim Gaffigan would say, this novel was McDonald’s for the soul. You know it is bad for you but somehow you feel compelled to go back for more.
If you are unfamiliar with the plot, I will do my best to summarize without spoiling. After losing their jobs and a substantial portion of Amy’s trust fund, Nick and Amy, a seemingly happily married couple, move from New York City to a small town in Missouri in order to care for Nick’s dying mother. On the day of their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy goes missing and it isn’t long before everyone, including the reader, begins to question whether Nick is responsible. The story shifts from the past to present with Amy’s diary entries filling in the back story while Nick’s perspective moves forward in the present.
From a purely literary standpoint, the writing is okay. The plot is ingenious on paper but I am not sure the characters pull it off. As with any elaborate storyline, believable, well-developed characters are essential to suspending the reader’s disbelief. I personally think first-person narrative, especially first person “Dear Diary” kind of narrative, makes this much more difficult. It is foreign to our experience of life to hear the thoughts and feelings of others first hand. Even our own thoughts don’t come to us in complete, full sentence form. Unless you are a very gifted and skilled writer, the first-person voice actually places distance between the character and the reader rather than creating the realistic intimacy of developing a character in the same way we get to know real people, through dialogue and perceived actions.
For all the patient unfolding of the plot through most of the book, the ending feels unsatisfactorily hurried and the most unrealistic bit to swallow. I also have to throw in my two cents worth of disappointment at the number of f-bombs Flynn throws around. The book is certainly gritty enough without them.
Overall, this was a gripping vacation read, but that’s all—library worthy but not retail price worthy.