book club, review

Book Club #3 – Gone Girl

I must admit I’m sort of cheating. Before you judge me, let me explain. When you read this, it’ll have been a long time since I finished this book.

I started reading the book, a couple of pages here and there, the first week of December, I believe. Then, I spent a night at the Ronald McDonald House (which from now on, it’ll be refer to as either RMH or the house), and it was so quiet, that I pretty much finished it. What can I say? I was bored. That was on 7th December.

To avoid forgetting details, I decided to write the review straight away, also as a way to refresh my memory prior to the book club (it’s much easier to read a post review than to re-read the book entirely, isn’t it?)

And finally before we plunge into my thoughts about the book, do I really need to say it? Be warned, spoilers ahead!

Gone Girl was a bit difficult to start reading. Somehow, I had avoided many spoilers (remember the film was released two months earlier), but I did know a bit about it, namely a husband is trying to find out who killed/kidnapped his wife. The wife was supposed to be super sweet and perfect, but it seems she was actually a calculating, cold woman. That’s about it.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect.

The first few pages, and chapters, confused me a bit, mainly because I didn’t pay attention to the dates. As I was reading, how they met, how cool they were, how perfect they were together (Diary Amy), and how resentful Nick was getting about him having to prove himself, something obviously smelt fishy.

From the get go, we’re told how Nick is unable to show emotion, even when he feels distressed inside. Diary Amy is troubled, Nick attributes this to how his dad used to deal with emotions (they were not part of his repertoire), so basically, we’re presented with very defined, opposite characters. Almost like they’re not real people. One is distant, and a bit cliche, a writer, disconnected, not able to recognise his wife’s needs. The other one the loving wife, understanding, patient, who blames herself for not being even more understanding or patient. I really didn’t like Amy at all.

Very early on, it’s obvious that all the evidence points at Nick as the perpetrator, and I started to wonder if maybe he had done it and he was hiding the truth from everyone around him, the readers included. Exactly as the characters in the novel, I started rooting for him (possibly because of the synopsis and spoilers I had caught before reading the book), and then I started to doubt him. I would say that was very well played by the author.

For a big chunk of the book, I was paying a lot of attention to the dates on each chapter, because I wanted Diary Amy to get up to speed, to know what was going on, who had done it, and why.

The fact that the ottoman cannot be turned, that everything seems way too easy: someone wiped the blood, she could have been disposed of in the river (coincidentally, Nick seemed to have had a search for bodies floating in the river), the credit cards, the handbag. When I read her loving notes, along with the clues, the fact that they were suddenly extremely easy for Nick to guess where the next clue was hidden. I started to know. What tipped me even more in that direction was Nick’s father, the fact that he kept shouting at her, and telling everyone she loved him. At first I, like Nick, thought that maybe she reminded him of a past lover. Later on I thought maybe she was trying to poison his mind somehow, and it turned out to be true. She had been playing with his mind.

The whole book is filled with clues, for Nick and for the reader. The fact that she has a best friend Nick didn’t know about, the fact that she was suddenly pregnant (when I read that, I almost went back to check if they had had sex at all, it seemed all too obvious, too typical), or even that she had brought a drink to that guy with the weird name. I know we never truly get to know another person, but how different could the reality be, that she could be two different people, and Nick not know it? It was very confusing (again, well done, Gillian Flynn!).

However, every character seemed too stereotyped. I’m not sure if that was intentional or not, as for example, there are plenty of references to movie cops, and even the fact that Amy likes reading true-crime books can be interpreted as done on purpose, create sort of caricatures of the characters we’ve grown accustomed to see on TV. The good cop, bad cop routine, that never gets actually going, and Nick is left wondering whether they were on his side or not. The fancy lawyer, who reminds me of different lawyers I’ve already seen, to some extent (Chicago, Suits, even Ally McBeal, the series, not the character). A note here, while getting ready to write this, I quickly checked IMDb’s page for Gone Girl, in case I needed to refresh my memory (again, easier to check the website than flick through the pages), and I saw the cast playing the different characters. For some reason, despite his wife being black, I didn’t picture Tanner Bolt black… However, I did picture Rhonda Boney. Now I’m wondering whether there were references in the book to their descent and features, and whether I missed them, anyone?

Amy’s parents are again a bit of a cliche. They need to, otherwise she wouldn’t be such an antagonist, but it feels a bit far-fetched (don’t they remind you, also, to the Fockers, from Meet The Parents?). Normally, I would say these cliches don’t work, but Gillian Flynn has managed to weave a world in which they seem somewhat believable, people who are the extremes of different personality traits.

I have to ask… What’s the deal with Desi? I almost felt pity for him (while he was still alive) for falling into the Amy trap, but again, he fell victim of his own caricaturised personality: so blind with infatuation, that he fell to recognise Amy for what she truly was. When Amy killed him, I felt disappointed, I had hoped the whole situation to really turn for the worse for her… How un-womanly of me.

The end was a bit disappointing, because it doesn’t really end. There isn’t a grand finale where you can rest assured all wrongs were righted and justice was served. They just went on. Go telling Nick that he was just looking for an excuse to stay with Amy, that they were addicted to each other, I feel it true to the core. Just because he is playing with her mind by telling her he feels sorry for her, hitting her (figuratively) where he knows she will hurt the most, by not admiring her, is just more of their game, their way of flirting, if you like. The truth is, they can’t live without one another, they define each other. Maybe it’s true what they say at some point that they get the best out of each other, even if that means being the worst they can be.

The book made me think about relationships and people in general, how little we know about others, even sometimes how little we know about ourselves. We think we do, we think we know how we’re going to react in this or that situation, but we can only guess, usually by imagining our best hero scenario, and rehearsing it in our minds. Sometimes we imagine out worst cowardly reaction, because we don’t trust ourselves.

When Greta and Jeff steal Amy’s money, it’s very telling how she reacts and what goes through her mind. Amy, the strong woman who doesn’t take nonsense from anyone, and there she is, alone with two lowlifes who want to steal her money. She briefly considers fighting back, but she quickly dismisses that thought by telling us she has never been hit, she is scared of getting hurt by someone else. So I’m guessing no rape, no falling down the stairs, and not being shoved by Nick?

I feel sorry for them, I am. They’re just two lost people who don’t know how to fully function as humans on their own, they need each other’s pettiness in order to survive, to feel superior to each other. It feels like they’re both fighting to be the top flea in a dog’s fur. They deserve each other.

Said that, I don’t understand all the hype that has surrounded both the book and the film (although I haven’t watched the latter). It seems it was all about a woman who is cold and calculating and did whatever she wanted, and that was too shocking, because women are supposed to be sweet and tolerant, and patient, and Diary Amy. However, I think it ends up being too much of a stereotype, rather than a believable personality, which I think takes a bit away from the rebellion intended in the first place… but what do I know?

Have you read the book? What did you think about it?

The book we’re currently reading now is Ancillary Justice (book one of Imperial Radch), by Ann Leckie. It seems it’s a book set in the space (a space opera, in fact) about robot soldiers, they’re not really robots, but they act like it. I think it’s a book about politics and ethics, but I have no idea. Someone suggested we read it for the office book club, and that’s what we’ve chosen. Expect a post about it at the end of January or the first week of February!