Date started: January 27th
Date finished: February 3rd
I am conflicted. I picked up Gone Girl at a local supermarket. It doesn’t happen too often, these Asda impulse buys, but occasionally something will catch my eye amongst the stacks of generic looking police procedurals and, more recently, S&M laced erotica marketed at bored housewives. Gone Girl was one such book. I was already nebulously aware of it from the internet hype. A lot of writers were calling it their favourite novel of 2012, and so I was intrigued. Yet, after reading it, I am conflicted.
Gone Girl tells the story of Nick Dunne and his wife Amy Elliot Dunne. They meet and marry in New York and things seem perfect until both of them lose their jobs in the recession. Amy’s parents go broke, so their trust fund disappears, then Nick’s mother inconveniently starts dying of cancer, so he insists they move to his home state of Missouri. On the morning of their fifth anniversary, Amy goes missing, and Nick is shocked to learn that the evidence implicates him. Nick sets out on the seemingly impossible task of proving his innocence.
In terms of style, Gone Girl is an absolute joy to read. Gillian Flynn’s prose flows wonderfully, and it bounces along at a solid pace. It’s fun, funny, dark, and darkly funny where it needs to be. Straight up, I’ll say I’d read another book by Flynn because I like her writing so much. Her authorial voice is evident, and Gone Girl made me keep turning the pages.
So, why am I conflicted? Well, to put it as bluntly as possible, it’s because I fucking hated both main characters. I don’t mind flawed characters, in fact they’re more interesting than Mary Sues, but Nick and Amy were irredeemable from the start. Not even counting the first world problem (and how I hate that flippant meme, but it fits here) of them losing their trust fund, and being forced to *gasp* rent a mansion in a beautiful area of the country and interact with small town folk rather than big city people, our two ‘heroes’ are just horrible people.
Nick comes off as abusive and somewhat misogynistic, and by the time he was revealed to have been cheating on his wife with a student, I was about ready to give up on liking him entirely. Amy is lovesick, entirely dependent on Nick, and overall, a doormat. In the latter half of the novel, when her character goes through something of a change (which I’ll leave vague for anyone who wants to read the book), she becomes more fun to read, but just as unlikable, just for different reasons.
So, what we ultimately have is a book with a very readable style, and an intriguing premise, with two characters who I couldn’t stand. Normally, I pick a character to root for, but in Gone Girl, I wanted both Nick and Amy to lose. It made what should have been a quick read take a week, because I couldn’t bring myself to care about what was going on. Hell, when Nick called in hotshot lawyer Tanner Bolt I pretended he was being played by Bob Odenkirk (Saul from Breaking Bad) because it made the whole thing a little more bearable.
One last point of annoyance, if you’ll indulge me. The novel is told in first person, from both perspectives. Since it’s a mystery, some revelations have to be kept from the reader until later in the book. What this results in is a lot of “I lied to the police” without telling us the character’s thoughts on the truth. First person writing tends to be used to get inside a character’s head, so I found myself irritated that I couldn’t get a grip on the characters I was supposed to be inhabiting because their motivations were obfuscated for so long.
Would I recommend Gone Girl? Personally, no. It’s well written, but there just wasn’t enough to like about it. That said, I stuck with it right through to the awful ending (again, no spoilers, but the story seemed to grind to an unnatural halt with many point left unresolved) and enough other people loved it, that I’m left wondering what I missed, and that maybe you, whoever you happen to be, will find it worth reading after all.