Sunday, May 12, 2013

Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone GirlGone Girl by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book has generated a lot of buzz. I usually steer clear of books everyone's talking about, because I tend to intensely dislike books everyone likes. In this case, though, I saw it wasn't universally liked, so I thought it was worth a shot. I'm not sure if I'm glad I read it, but I did get a lot out of it.

Gone Girl is about Nick and Amy Dunne, a married couple about to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary in North Carthage, Missouri, when Amy vanishes from their home. They met in New York City, but moved back to Missouri to be near Nick's ailing mother after Nick and Amy were laid off. Nick blames the internet for the loss of his print journalism job, while Amy seems to be making the most of it. If you go by what's on the surface, anyway.

But of the many themes in this book, the strongest is that you can't trust what's on the surface. It explores the notion that we don't really know one another, and how much of a risk we take when we devote our lives to another person. Nick, it turns out, is selfish and immature and unable to communicate, while Amy is manipulative and toxic. It occurred to me about halfway through the book that these two were meant for each other, and not in a good way.

Within Nick's perspective sections, we're treated to some additional themes about the changing American landscape, misogyny, inheriting the sins of one's parents, and of the best self brought about through strife. Through Amy, we get some commentary about masks and personas, feminism (though her use of feminism only serves her as far as it creates a convenient narrative), and power plays.

What a lot of other reviewers seem unaware of is that both narrators are unreliable, in their own ways. Nick desperately wants the reader to like him, so he explains his actions away to the very end. Amy wants the reader to see how smart and superior she is, so even her emotionally driven choices are justified with philosophical underpinnings. It's a story about masks, so of course the main characters continue to wear masks throughout the book.

I liked neither of the main characters by the end, but I was driven to find out what happens to them. I hoped for a comeuppance, while waiting for certain plot seeds to come to fruition. Gillian Flynn writes cleanly; all of the twists and turns in the narrative are telegraphed well ahead of time.

The ending hit me pretty hard. It wasn't what I was expecting, but it was what the narrative called for. It took me a few hours to even figure out if I'd liked it. It certainly wasn't uplifting.

I listened to this book on audio, narrated by Kirby Heyborne and Julia Whelan. It's interesting how their impressions of other characters' voices sounded so similar, and their impressions of the other character's speaking voice even sounded like the other voice actor. That's difficult to pull off in a collaborative audio book, and I thought they did it pretty seamlessly.

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