Gillian Flynn: Gone Girl (2012)

Gone Girl

So now I’m one of those who has read Gone Girl. Some bestsellers put me off because everyone reads them, others still make me want to find out what the fuss is all about. Gone Girl was one of the latter. You can’t pick up a recent crime novel without seeing a reference to Gone Girl, you can’t look at agent’s and editor’s picks without seeing it mentioned. Everyone, it seems, is looking for the next Gone Girl. Most of the time when I finally give in and read a book because of the hype, I’m disappointed. In this case it’s not as bad, but I still feel somewhat underwhelmed. Gone Girl has a major plot twist in the middle and an unexpected ending. And it is hugely manipulative, which may be the reason, why I wasn’t surprised by anything. I just felt I was led to assume one thing, while another was true. I saw the twist in the middle coming and foresaw the end. I also had the impression, I’ve read all this before, but I couldn’t come up with a book title. That’s when I realised that it has a similarity with some TV series like Damages and Breaking Bad, which I watched recently. They are both equally full of twists and turns. And I enjoyed them more.

So what’s it all about? On the day of their fifth anniversary beautiful, intelligent and witty Amy Dunne goes missing. A neighbour calls Nick at work and when he returns home, he finds his house wide open. He sees signs of a struggle in the living room and blood in the kitchen. What has happened to Amy? And why is Nick not as concerned as he should be? Police, media, neighbours, and even Amy’s parents, soon turn against Nick and suspect him to be a murderer.

The book is told by both Amy and Nick. Both are highly unreliable narrators. The only thing we know for sure is that their marriage went down the drain when they both lost their jobs and left New York, Amy’s hometown for Nick’s hometown North Carthage, Missouri. If they had only lost their jobs it would have been bad enough, but Amy, who was incredibly rich, loses most of her money. Amy’s psychologist parents are a successful writer duo. Their children’s book series Amazing Amy has earned them a fortune and made Amy into a celebrity. The only problem: the books are not as successful as they used to be. Bad investments and overspending have done the rest. Amy’s parents are broke and need Amy’s money.

Unfortunately it’s hard to write about this book in any depth without spoiling it. I’m glad I’ve read it. I can see why it appeals to many people. Gillian Flynn writes well and plots well. But from a psychological point of view, I found this unsatisfying. Both characters are described in great detail, but they didn’t come to life; they remain shallow, despicable card-board figures. When I think of the aforementioned series Damages, and the character Glenn Close plays, I see why I didn’t really appreciate Gone Girl. Glenn Close’s character is hateful and despicable, but she’s also admirable and touching. A fascinating, toxic mixture. Nick and Amy are just narcissistic ciphers.

Gone Girl is entertaining, but I don’t think it has anything pertinent to say about marriage or relationships, other than dysfunction + dysfunction = ultimate dysfunction. This was my second Gillian Flynn novel and I liked it less than the first, Sharp Objects. I’m curious to find out how Dark Places compares to these two.

40 thoughts on “Gillian Flynn: Gone Girl (2012)

  1. I think it helps to be dense. I never, never see twists coming, no matter how many books I read! LOL So I love getting knocked around by twists and turns. So I really liked it, but I have no doubt my naivety/density played a role! :–)

    • I don’t always see them but I just felt manipulated right away and that made me think – Hmmm, let’s see, which is the thing I’d expect the least and that somehow led me to the solution. A bit like in an Agatha Christie novel. It’s always the person you expect the least, somtimes it’s even a dead person.
      Plus I’d just watched those TV series. Still, it’s a page turner.

  2. I felt the same way as you Caroline, and while it is a pageturner, I felt manipulated and ultimately annoyed. There’s going to be a film version and someone is making a film of her earlier novel too.

    • I think Reese Witherspoon will play Amy, right? She looks perfect for the part.
      I wasn’t all that annoyed but a bit disappointed.

      I was hoping that the main charcaters would be nasty or dysfunctional but not such butters, if you know what I mean.

        • I certainly will, and I’m pretty sure I might like it better than the book, only there will be no surprises.
          Carole mentions it’s not Reese Witherspooon but Rosamunde Pike. Not a bad pick either.

          • I never had any interest in reading this book, Caroline, but I saw the movie earlier today and now I really have no interest in reading the book! “Hugely manipulative,” indeed. I thought Rosamund Pike did a rather weak job in the title role, but how much of that was due to her acting and how much was due to the silly script is beyond me. In fact, I laughed at a lot of the lines they were so unconvincing. If the movie is anything at all like the novel, I’m also curious why more book bloggers never really said much about Flynn’s exploitation of domestic violence as a cheesy plot twist in a farfetched thriller; the movie makes me fear that her script is capitalizing on a problem that deserves more respect than it gets in the film.

            • I might still watch the movie but I can see how some of it would sound very laughable.
              I read an interview with Flynn and it seems that when it came out it was the book that sold the most that year. Over 2,000,000 copies in a couple of months. Why this book is beyond me, but I shouldn’t be surprised. This type of “domestic horror” is soo bourgeois. And dishonest. It’s as if the writer was saying: There’s a lot wrong in our world but please let’s not think about it. Let’s invent the perfect couple turning into enemies. Let’s invent 2 unreliable narrators and twist and turn the reader’s expectations.
              I suppose that the bloggers who would be more critical of a book like this, don’t read it? Although, Guy read it as well and his conclusions are similar to mine.
              There’s a huge production of similar books right now. And I chose the word production deliberately. These are not writers, these are producers of entertainment.

    • It is disappointing, isn’t it? Maybe without the hype I’d have liked it more. Who knows. I expected it to be a bit different. I didn’t find it all that realistic.

  3. I can see where this book would pale in comparison to Damages and Breaking Bad, Caroline. They are wonderfully written and Gone Girl is not. I saw this novel as strictly entertainment, not fine lit at all. Was very surprised at how many people hated the conclusion, because I didn’t see it ending any other way.
    I believe Ben Affleck and Rosamunde Pike are playing the leads in the movie. I like her a lot and will go to see what she does with the character.

    • I mixed that up the. I thought it would be Reese Whiterspoon. I’ll watch it any way.
      I didn’t think the writing was all that bad but compared to Damages or Breaking Bad it was like luke warm coffee.
      It was entertaining though but I’m sure I won’t remember it within a few weeks.
      Glad to hear you liked Damages as well.

    • I was actually worried to write a less than glowing review but now I see, I’m in very good company.
      The characters were a huge disappointment. I don’t mind dysfunctional or maybe a bit crazy but these are just marionettes.

  4. I too really do not get much out of characters that have few redeeming qualities. After a lifetime of experiencing such creations in books and on the screen one would think that most people would be looking for a little more complexity.

  5. I think this is a book that’s really hard to read when you’ve heard the hype. I’d heard enough hype when I read it (and that was a while ago now) that I had expectations set far too high, and was prepared for twists (even if I didn’t know what they were). It’s like reading Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected – you’re already looking out for the unexpected! I wish I could have read it without knowing anything about it – then I might have been more surprised. I think as soon as you know what you’re in for, it’s the manipulation that hits you square in the face. My main criticism of it was that what began as an intriguing portrait of gender rancour dissolved into a fight between a couple of psychopaths. I thought that was the main shame.

    • I couldn’t agree more, that’s why I wrote that in the end it’s not very pertinent about marriage or gender rancour, as you call it, because the people are deranged.
      And the hype certinaly didn’t help. I expected something much more unusual and less manipulative.

  6. Nice review, Caroline. Nice to know that you found the book interesting, though you didn’t like it as much as you had hoped to. I used to love surprises in a story – especially the unexpected ones – even when they were manipulative and sometimes had no basis on the story told till then. But these days I don’t read such stories much and unexpected surprises are so predictable now. I don’t know whether I will read this book – too much hype is definitely a problem – but because you said that it is a page turner, it might be a good book to read during a long train journey, a book which could keep one entertained. I loved what you said about Glenn Close’s character in ‘Damages’“hateful and despicable, but…also admirable and touching. A fascinating, toxic mixture.” I have watched only parts of one or two episodes of ‘Damages’. Now after reading your thoughts on Glenn Close’s character, I want to watch the series 🙂

    • I totally loved Damages. I liked how we always saw some bits of the end of the season first and then it would rewind. manipulative as well but so, so well done.
      And the two women, played by Close and Rose Byrne are amazing.
      To be entirely honest, Gone Gilr isn’t even that much of a page-turner. After the middle I wasn’t even too interested how it would end. You can choose much better books if you’d like to read something suspenseful.

  7. I have been away from so many book bloggers so I have never heard of this book yet. I know how you feel about too much hype, it happens to me so often (both books and movies).

    I am more interested with you comparing this to breaking bad rather than the summary of the book itself. I have heard so much of that series and I still haven’t seen it yet. I’ve heard how great it is but I often got disappointed with any hype so I still delay watching the series. The last hype I saw was The Big Bang Theory, I was disappointed because it wasn’t as funny as everyone keeps telling me.

    Anyway, great review as always.

  8. First Guy, now you. I’m not going to waste time on this one.

    I find it interesting to read “hype” books even if they’re notoriously bad (so far, in my experience 50 shades wins the platinum medal of the silliest hype book ever.) just to see what the fuss is all about. Sometimes it’s not that bad and sometimes it really makes you wonder about the society we live in. (Cf the above mentioned book whose main characters are both insults to women)

    • I can’t say this one is totally bad, but it’s not as good as one might think.
      I do sometimes read hype books – not 50 Shades of Grey because I knew the writing was very bad. That’s something I find hard to take. Flynn writes very well. But I would say 50 Shades as much as this say a lot about our society, My platinum worst hype book is still The Da VinCi Code.

  9. A manipulative novel about unconvincing characters. A definite pass I think.

    As a rule I think hype books (as Emma puts it) are very rarely worth reading. The attention they get is more a snowball effect than anything intrinsic to them I tend to think. People read them to see what the fuss is about, rather than because they were trusted recommendations or got good reviews. The hype becomes self-fulfilling, but it doesn’t imply substance, or at least not the sort of substance a more literary reader would tend to want.

    Also, seriously, over 400 pages? Under 200 and it might have some punch. Over 400 smells of bloat.

    • As so often you put into accurate words what we were trying to say. the snowball effect is not to undreestimate. While Gone Girl isn’t as bad as many other hype books, it’s not as good as one might think.
      You can certainly pass. The biggest problem was that the characters were not merely dysfunctinal but almost psychotic. I have a ahrd time seeing what that might have to do with realistic description of a marriage/relationship.
      Like Guy, I’m going to watch the movie and I’m pretty sure – as movie material it will be quite entertaining.
      She needed 400 pages for all those killer twists (I’m sarcastic).

  10. I’ve seen this around but haven’t read it yet. Like you, I’m always wary about the next best thing. Sounds like a decent, easy read. not too taxing on the brain. The lack of character development even with all the description is curious.

    • I have a feeling this wouldn’t be your thing. I’m not a fan of the premise “lovers become enemies” any way. I should have know better and not even tried it.

  11. I have this on my reading pile–but will read it later when all the things I’ve read about it have faded a bit. It sounds like something good for when you are in the need for something a little mindless and entertaining. Though now I feel like surely I really must be the last person to read it…..!

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