Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Gone Girl

Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl’s getting a lot of buzz since it came out a year ago - I finally got around to reading it recently and got so mad on Facebook I said it made me QUESTION THE VERY PURPOSE OF BOOKS.  In retrospect, I don’t know what I really meant by that, and I’ve kind of settled down about the book.  I’m about to drop some Crazy-town spoilers, so don’t read on if you intend to read Gone Girl yourself.

So, at the beginning, there’s a double-narrative about the disappearance of Amy on her 5th wedding anniversary.  Nick, her husband, gives his perspective, and the other half is from Amy’s old diary.  Nick comes off like a jerk and Amy seems like sweet and likable woman that’s WAY too good for Nick.  So, it seems fairly obvious that Nick “did it”, because you can only assume that she is dead and that she was killed by her domestic partner.  

So, then there’s a twist.  If you talk to anyone who’s read Gone Girl, they’ll want to know when or if you knew there would be a twist.  I’ll admit that I saw the twist coming only about 2 pages in advance.  Some people will tell you they saw it a mile ago.  It turns out, Amy’s a psychopath, and she staged her own death and framed Nick for her murder, mostly just to stick it to him.  So, the double narrative continues, but from Nick’s increasingly befuddled POV and from Amy’s vindictive POV, where she explains how she “did it” and observes how the case goes forward.  Amy admits that she’s taking advantage of the general assumption that in case of a missing or dead woman, it’s fairly likely that her domestic partner had something to do with it.
I thought the entries turned out nicely, and it wasn’t simple. I had to maintain an affable if somewhat naive persona, a woman who loved her husband and could see some of this flaws (otherwise she’d be too much of a sap) but was sincerely devoted to him - all the while leading the reader (in this case, the cops, I am so eager for them to find it) toward the conclusion that Nick was indeed planning to kill me.
For a while that really cheesed me off until I was finally able to doff my cap to Flynn and admit she’d really pulled a good one.  I mean, not only that, but put together an extremely well-crafted narrative structure followed by a beautifully executed twist. Although, the truth is, if a woman is injured or killed, it’s actually fairly likely that her intimate partner did harm her - somehow I felt like this whole switcher-oo was a kick in the pants to the very real issues of domestic violence.  So, ok, I’m naturally willing to concede this is FICTION and for entertainment purposes, but what Gone Girl turned into for me was a particularly over-the-top episode of CSI, which I stopped watching years ago specifically because of their propensity to veer toward ridonkulous plot twists.  I mean, the only rational explanation for what Amy does is that she’s like, an honest-to-God psychopath.  And then the book turns to the area of truly inconceivable when Amy double-frames and murders her ex-boyfriend, comes home to Nick and somehow convinces him that they’re going to live together even though he knows what she did and then she impregnates herself with old sperm he had a bank and traps him forever with the threat that otherwise she’ll turn their kid into another psychopath or... something?  

Anyway, aside from a handful of friends who discreetly whispered to me that they too, were annoyed by Gone Girl, it’s been very well received since it’s publication.  It was also a finalist in the Tournament of Books, a kind of cool showdown between some of the year’s hottest and, in some cases, overlooked fiction in a sports-like bracket thing.  Anyway, Gone Girl made it to the next-to-last bracket-thing (I’m not very good at describing this).  Here’s what Kate Bolick has to say about the book, even as it beats out the competition:  “And then: Hah! The joke is on Amy! And also on Nick. And also on you.”  That’s the truth.  

No comments: