Wednesday, October 1, 2014

3 Things I Loved About Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (and 2 Things I Didn't)

If you've been around here a while, you've noticed that I do these "10 Things I Loved" post about books I want to review. I love the list format as it really helps me focus my thoughts and write a cohesive review. But every once in a while I'll read a book that I enjoyed, but only to an extent. And I honestly can't find 10 things I love about it, but I still want to talk about it.

So I'm adding another list type post - 3 things I loved and 2 things I didn't (as I'm sure you gathered from the title of this post). I won't be doing this every time - in fact, I try to stick with books that I really like. But I was an English major and I do think critically about the things I read, so every once in a while I want to look at what made a book just not quite fully work for me.

And my first book is, of course, the wildly popular and soon-to-be-movie-adapted novel by Gillian Flynn: Gone Girl.

Basic premise: Nick and Amy have been married five years. On their fifth anniversary Amy goes missing and suddenly Nick finds himself in the middle of an investigation where more and more clues start pointing to him as a suspect.

The novel goes back and forth between Nick and Amy's narration, jumping around in time to some extent.

And that's all you're going to get here, because this is one of those novels where significant plot points will be revealed if you describe it too much. Down below, under the giant spoiler warning I will discuss a couple of points in more detail.

So here are the three things I loved about the book:

  1. The narrative voices of the two characters: Nick and Amy are so distinct and vivid. They really live in the story, which impacts our perception of the story as we're only getting their view of things. There are definite elements of "unreliable narrator" which I love and which complicate the characters and the situations that develop throughout the book.
  2. The basic premise of the book: I suppose this is classified as a thriller, but it has mystery elements in it as well. It's not really either, but is both and I just really liked the way Flynn developed the premise.
  3. Unexpected: I literally never knew what to expect. Ever. When I hit part 2 it took me about fifteen minutes to pick my jaw up off the floor. And it continually startled, surprised, and engaged me. I wanted to know what had happened! And this is one of the main things that kept me reading.
Because, now come the 2 things I was not a fan of:
  1. The profanity: There is very little of it in the first part of the book, but it become increasingly pervasive as the book progresses. I intellectually understand the reasoning behind some of it (pardon vagueness as I try not to spoil), but much of it felt completely gratuitous. Much of it made me distinctly uncomfortable. Some of it was so bad that I almost gave up on the book. It was only my curiosity that kept me going. I don't remember where I heard this, but someone pointed out that you never miss profanity. You rarely say, man, that would have been better if the characters had been more foul-mouthed. I know that I have high standards when it comes to language, but I also know that I'm not the only one. I know that Flynn could have gotten across her point without the heavy-handed use of profanity. A lot of times, this kind of pervasive use of it can almost feel like laziness. Like the author is using profanity as a crutch to tell us how the character is rather than to show it. And here, Flynn shows it really well - the language wasn't necessary to get the point across.
  2. The ending: I "understand" why the ending happened the way it did. From looking at other people's comments I'm pretty sure the ending was completely polarizing. People either really liked it or it ruined the whole book for them. I'm in the ruined the book camp. I can't think of many times I've ever been so completely dis-satisfied with the ending of a book. It wasn't just that I didn't like it, it was just deeply and utterly unsatisfying for me.
So should you read it? Well a lot of people disagree with me. I'm really curious to see how they make this book work in a film. So if you're intrigued, I say go for it. Most of it was really fascinating. Just know that you may not like the ending. Or you might.

If you read the book (or don't care about spoilers) you can scroll down to see a few more of my specific thoughts.

SPOILERS AHEADWARNING

Also maybe in the comments

Okay, so don't say that I didn't warn you.

I have read other books with sociopathic characters that I have really enjoyed. So I know that it wasn't just that aspect. However, in the other ones I can think of there has been some sort of something that has connected me to that character and made me root for them. There has been either some sort of redeeming quality (even if extremely tiny) or some sort of aspect that almost forces me to be on that character's side, even while I'm wondering why on earth I could ever want this character to get anything.
That was completely lacking in Gone Girl. I hated Amy. I didn't even really like diary Amy in the first section. But as the story progressed I disliked her more and more. I never, not once, felt any kind of connection to her. I hated the character absolutely. I wasn't a big fan of Nick, but I could see some glimmers of his character that at least made me understand some of his choices. Amy was absolutely and completely unlikable to me. So for her to get absolutely no ramifications for her actions was beyond frustrating.
I think that the ending was crafted very intentionally. I'm in no way saying that Flynn is a bad author because of this. I intellectually understand her decision. I'm just not happy with it. And I have to believe that she knew how some readers would react. So I have to give her chops for going with her desired ending, not one that would make people happy. But I do have to say that I'm pretty sure I won't pick up any more of her books.
But I am talking about this one. And I guess getting people talking about your book is a good thing too.

So what did you think? Did you like the ending? Loathe the ending? Did you fall in the camp (of which I haven't seen yet) of people who didn't really care one way or the other? I would love to hear.

1 comment:

Jenn Neuburger said...

The ending drove me crazy too but I think that was precisely what Gillian Flynn intended to do. I couldn't find a single redeeming quality in Amy. As you probably know, my favorite endearing sociopath is Arianna Osgood. The part that my dad and I have a hard time accepting is that Amy seemed so brilliant, her plan so crafted and yet she trusted those drifters?! The drifters that ultimately ruined her whole "perfect" plan. She seemed way to smart for that. We're really looking to see how the movie is done. The trailer certainly looks good.