Friday, May 2, 2014

Gone Girl

Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl was a sensation a couple of years ago, but I didn't get
round to reading it until recently. It didn't seem like my sort of book as I'm not a fan of the kidnapped/missing girl genre, but in fact it isn't really that sort of book at all. The below paragraphs contain MAJOR SPOILERS and should not be read if you don't want plot points in the narrative revealed. Even if you have no intention of reading the book, Gone Girl is becoming a Hollywood movie that you'll probably end up seeing on a plane or TV somewhere, so if you dont want that spoiled too stop reading now. 
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Ok, still with me? Good. Brief plot summary follows: Gone Girl takes place in rural Missouri where Nick Dunne has relocated after losing his job on a New York magazine (Gillian Flynn was downsized from Entertainment Weekly and after her dismissal also relocated to rural Missouri). Nick takes his flightly but sweet wife with him and they both try to adapt to living in a small town. One afternoon Nick comes back from work to discover that his house has been broken in to and his wife has gone missing. The cops suspect Nick knows more than he's saying and when they discover that he was having an affair they are convinced that he killed his wife, but we the reader know different...
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The first thing I liked about Gone Girl was how unlikeable the two main characters were. Initially I thought this was authorial incompetence, but it wasn't: the husband and wife are both rich, spoiled, self involved yuppies and we're supposed to not like them. We're supposed to read the book despite Nick being a toady and a creep and a third of the way in we discover - in a major twist - that his wife, the beautiful sweet Amy Dunne, is an unreliable narrator (we've been reading her diary in alternate chapters) and she is in fact a highly functioning sociopath. Amy has staged the disappearance to get revenge on her husband for his affair and wants to see him squirm, get convicted and possibly get executed. I also liked Amy's backstory (she's the star of a series of children's books written by her chilly parents) and although I never warmed to Nick at all I did enjoy seeing him try to weasel his way out of the shit. 
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Ironic, funny, off kilter with unlikeable leads and a brilliant downbeat ending Gone Girl is my kind of airport novel and I'm glad that it was and is a success. It's both a missing girl thriller and a satire of missing girl thrillers (there are many delicious digs at Nancy Grace and her ilk). I've read press reports recently that the ending is being changed for the movie & I hope this isn't true. The ending is not happy and this reflects the tone of the book. David Fincher is the director and he is not a man to back down from an unhappy ending (Seven & Fight Club & Alien 3 didn't exactly end with flowers and roses) so maybe this is a false report. I certainly hope so. 

50 comments:

Alan said...

Adrian,Book was laced with humor and I thought a fast read.It deemed to me to be a bright and sad commentary on a spoiled segment of the 'Americana" middle class.The riff on the Nick's lawyer and spouse was precious.This kind of book makes airtravel tolerable.Best Alan

seana graham said...

I'll wait to read your review till I read the book then, if I do. I had a feeling it wasn't for me either, but I do have a galley here.

But just saw a Chris Hayes segment on the arrest of Gerry Adams. Sounds like he wouldn't do much time under the peace arrangments, but I do sense possibilities for Sean Duffy 4. Ger and Sean are, after all, such good friends.

adrian mckinty said...

Alan

Normally when I read this kind of phenom book I'm baffled as to why its taken off - The Da Vinci Code, Dragon Tattoo etc. - but not this time. Its lively writing with a good twist and a good ending.

adrian mckinty said...

Seana

Its funny how the American media has got this story almost completely wrong. Well the NYT anyway. If you read the Times its the British and the Unionists who are trying to bring Adams down via their proxies in the police. In fact its almost exactly the opposite case, the British want to keep Adams in power as a bulwark against the IRA recusants and the police have VERY reluctantly investigated this case under pressure from Mrs McConville's outraged family.

Adams almost certainly had a hand in Mrs McConville's abduction, torture and murder but if Adams goes down the biggest winners will be his hardline enemies in the IRA who will use his fall as proof of Albion Perfide. Its a complicated issue and the two NYT stories I've read on it entirely miss the point.

seana graham said...

Although obviously I am not as informed as you are, I thought the Chris Hayes segment was pretty even handed. What happens to him specifically is less important than the possibility that America might see the situation as a bit more complex than previously.

I wonder though that Adams didn't have a small hesitancy in the original murder, as a woman with ten children's blood is certainly going to cry from the ground, metaphorically or not.

adrian mckinty said...

Seana

Thats the weird thing. Everyone in Ireland knows that Gerry Adams was on the IRA Army Council for decades and almost certainly ordered the murder of dozens, possibly hundreds of people - many of whom were Catholics, many of whom like Mrs McConville were dragged out of their houses in front of their screaming children, kidnapped, tortured and then shot. But for most of the American media Gerry Adams is a hero, the Irish Nelson Mandela, when he certainly isn't. The Irish Winnie Mandela maybe.

I think its more problematic for the NYT because Maureen Dowd is a personal friend of Gerry Adams, which is why the story of Adams's brother raping his own daughter for decades (and the subsequent cover up) never got any play in the paper and its probably why the NYT coverage is so strange focusing on weird conspiracy theories and not even quoting Mrs McConville's kids.

The best place for the real story is the Guardian which covers the Adams story from about five different angels. The Guardian is not without its flaws but I think of it as a newspaper for grown ups. NPR was good on this too, yesterday.

seana graham said...

I wonder when Adams halo will tarnish over here. An interview with Mrs. McConville's surviving children on Sixty Minutes would probably do it. After all, the electorate turned on John Edwards for less.

John McFetridge said...

I don't know, Seana, America loves its outlaws and rebels. I suppose anything is possible but this constituency is a little, ahem, stubborn.

As for the movie version of Gone Girl, with the potential for spoilers so high floating a few stories of alternate endings and other misinformation is probably a good idea.

speedskater42k said...

I liked Gone Girl and also an earlier book by the same author, Sharp Objects. I'll be interested to see the movie as well.

I was hoping I'd see your thoughts on G. Adams. I've only read the NYT bits on this and believed that I had essentially no understanding of what is a terrible and very complicated set of events. I do get annoyed by the type of comments that are quoted in the NYT from US politicians who seem to be playing to their base, only.

Peter Rozovsky said...

I've been surprised by what Irish people--as opposed to opinion writers and makers in America--have to say about the troubles. They tend to be at the very least a good deal more skeptical of the IRA than Americans do.

I chatted with John Connolly about this at the Edgars in New York last night. He greeted me, I said, "What about Gerry Adams' arrest?" and we were off, or rather he was. I don't want to report details, simply because it was a private conversation, but I will say that he seemed to yearn for peace and, at the same time, to have little faith in current leaders. He spoke in terms nearly identical to what I once heard a weary Palestinian say about the territories and Israek.

seana graham said...

John, I was just thinking this morning that underinformed American that I am, I never had much liking for Adams, and sympathetic though I am with Ireland's stormy history with England, I never thought bombings in London train stations for example was very winning to the cause.

I don't know about San Francisco, but I do think that the west coast is maybe a little bit outside the fierce loyalties that seem to more evident on the East Coast. We are a lot less tribal out here, for better or worse.

John McFetridge said...

Yes, Seana, that's always a good question - what is the goal of a bomb in a public place?

One of Pierre Trudeau's lines here in Canada during the October Crisis was, "Those who gain power through terror rule through terror." (Adrian can tell me where he nicked it from ;))

Of course, I don't think anyone who ever planted a bomb gave much thought to, say, an education bill or a health care budget or how the half of the people who didn't support the movement will get on.




seana graham said...

Although Adams does strike me as a thinker--just not as someone capable of much empathy.

adrian mckinty said...

Seana

The NYT in particular has a very un-nuanced approach to this story. Its very much Grrrr Grrrr The Evil Brits. When they're covering N Ireland they become Fox News.

adrian mckinty said...

John

The Canadian press seems to have appreciated the subtleties of the situation a lot better than the American papers because I suppose there's not a huge chippy Irish population and disgraceful politicians like Peter King. Give me Ron Ford over Peter King any day.

adrian mckinty said...

Speedskater

I dont think its that complicated. Gerry Adams is now a very important piece of the current peace deal between the Catholcs and Protestants. He's persuaded most of the hardline IRA men to lay down their arms in exchange for an Assembly in Belfast.

But its also a fact that Adams was an IRA commander who ordered the deaths of many people and the families of those people want justice...

adrian mckinty said...

Peter

It'll be interesting to see Sinn Fein's share of the vote in the Euro elections in a few weeks.

I'm always amazed by the number of sensible middle class Nationalists who are willing to vote for Sinn Fein as I am at the sensible middle class Prods willing to vote for the DUP.

Both brands are completely toxic and to vote for them you really have to hold your nose.

Alan said...

Adrian,This looks like a script taken right form Stuart Neville"s Collusion.Why is this gangster being interrogated now when the report of his involvement has been archived for years.Has Robespierre fallen from grace with Murat and Babeouf i.e. "The Inner Circle of the I.R.A."?How about the U.V.A/U.D.F .gunmen as well? Glad you are well away from these madmen.No one seems to mention the International Court in the Hague.Best Alan

adrian mckinty said...

Alan

Its a farcical situation but to be honest I'm more interested at this stage in the spin. Especially from the NYT which is behaving very strangely in its coverage possibly because of the Maureen Dowd link. I think this may be a case for the Public Editor of the Times Margaret Sullivan. We'll see....

seana graham said...

I'm waiting to see if Adams has one of those get out of jail free cards in his pocket.

adrian mckinty said...

Seana

He has. The story in all the Irish papers today is that Sinn Fein is "reconsidering its support for the police and the N I Assembly"...

That'll be enough to scare the Brits and the cops...

Adams will never see the inside of a courtroom, mark my words...

adrian mckinty said...

incidentally The American Library Association has picked In The Morning I'll Be Gone as one of the 10 best crime novels of the year

http://www.booklistonline.com/The-Year-s-Best-Crime-Novels-2014-Bill-Ott/pid=6757903

But dont hold your breath for a review in the NYT or any other major American paper any time soon...

John McFetridge said...

NYT or not, congrats Adrian, that's well deserved.

Hey, Kirkus said maybe Black Rock would be a spring breakout but we all know it won't be.

seana graham said...

That's excellent news about the library pick. Don't bury the lede--put it in a new post.

seana graham said...

John, I've been waiting till I read Tumblin' Dice, but I think I maybe should just cut to the chase and read Black Rock first. That's great news too.

Rob James said...

I have literally just finished it. Loved it, loved it, loved it.
Although I have a suspicion that I might have hated the ending.

Anne said...

I am chuffed to read that your opinion of Gone Girl tallies so well with my own review on Goodreads. I found it
mind-blowing psychologically, plotted to the nth degree, and a psychopathic main character in the same league as Highsmith's "The Talented Mr. Ripely". I'm sure I've read that Flynn is planning a sequel, so hopefully the film version won't mess with the ending of this one.
On a somewhat speculative note, I did wonder if the fact that having 'GONE' in the title of your latest book could lead to a knock-on effect on its sales!

Alan said...

Adrian,Congratulations and well deserved.Best Alan

KIKAREN said...

Sorry, I hated Gone Girl.
GA must be the most hated man/person in England even more than Ian[hunger strike] Brady.

Anne said...

In response to Kikaren: as an English woman (Yorkshire born) whose first husband was from the Irish Republic and second one with Northern Irish antecedents, I have to admit to a lot of conflicting views about the whole 'Irish Question'. However, I think I can say that many English people had great sympathy with the Republican cause in the 70's and felt that Northern Irish Catholics had been shabbily treated under British rule. Husband no. 1 actually served in the RAF just before the 1970's troubles broke out and was astounded to hear the singing of Irish rebel songs in the bars around Finingley where he was stationed. He never encountered any prejudice on the forty years he lived in England.

adrian mckinty said...

Seana

Maybe I will do a blog post about it. I always think these things are going to be "game changer" moments but they never are. The only way you'll ever really have a game changer moment is if you have a massive publicity machine behind you and a committed big publisher

adrian mckinty said...

Rob

I liked the ending. Justice didnt come. The bad guy (bad lady) won.

adrian mckinty said...

Anne

Yeah it was a good one, wasn't it. The first big airport popular novel I've really connected with in years.

adrian mckinty said...

Alan

Cheers, mate.

adrian mckinty said...

Kikaren

You were supposed to hate the lead characters but like the book despite them, which I did.

adrian mckinty said...

Anne

Its right to hate Adams for everything he did. And its right to hate him in England - he gave the final say on the Manchester bombings for example - but the problem with nailing him for the McConville murder is very apres moi le deluge....

If Adams goes down N Ireland becomes Ukraine. Which is why Adams wont go down.

seana graham said...

That was a nice little thumbnail on the ALA site. Seemed like a good list in general.

On the Chris Hayes show they were making an analogy between Adams and F.W. de Klerk, he of both apartheid and Nobel Prize fame.

"Too big to fail" would be another example.

Rob James said...

I've just read what is reported to be the leaked script. The ending appears to be (mostly) the same even down to the last scene with Nick and the cop in the coffee shop.

That is if it is genuine. Although, Someone must have gone to a hell of lot of effort to fake it.

adrian mckinty said...

Seana

I think my Winnie Mandela analogy works a little better.

adrian mckinty said...

Rob

Interesting.

The ending was good. It worked for the book I felt and it would work for a film too.

KIKAREN said...

Anne, I live in Newcastle so in terms of this Blog, we are next-door neighbours.

KIKAREN said...

I get it, I get it Adrian; just found it . . . I dont know . . . hollow is all that comes to mind. I am finally coming to realise that we have completely different tastes in books. After what, four years I have been posting here. I was so shocked by your opinion of THE CROSSING recently, particularly because it is one of my all-time top-ten novels and on the other hand,I tried RED OR DEAD but threw in the towel around page eight thousand three hundred and fort-two and still hadnt got into it and I tried Morrisey and that other thing you loved last year,HOPE [Shalom Auslander] which I only bought on your recommendation but gave up on around p.80. Wasn't 'hilarious'. So I have learned my lesson, finally.
Back to GA for a minute, I completely disagree about your Ukraine analogy. There is no Putin puppet-master figure on the scene. Isn't it interesting however how GA is so highly regarded in the US while his arch-nemesis Blair, who allowed the SAS to take the gloves off, is also so revered there. Americans. They just cant put two and two together.

adrian mckinty said...

Kikaren

Thats quite the litany. In my defence I think I was pretty careful when I was reviewing Red or Dead, both on the blog and in newspaper - I said that the vast majority of people reading the book wd hate it and I explained why. And I did say to read the first 20 pages first. The Crossing? Its ok, but not up there with All The Pretty Horses or his earlier books. Hope: A Tragedy I sd was a black comedy with moments of hilarity. Dont think I ever reviewed that one.

Here's the books I read in 2013 post

http://adrianmckinty.blogspot.com.au/2013/11/books-of-year-november-update.html

Plenty of A ratings but the Sholem Auslander only rates a B- and wasnt in my top 20 of last year, Morrissey gets an A- not an A and the David Peace was heavily caveated. So I think I'm off the hook. No?

KIKAREN said...

Yes, off the hook.
And Ukraine . . .?

adrian mckinty said...

Kikaren

No I think Northern Ireland cd become Bosnia/Ukraine or perhaps even Syria pretty easily in the next decade or so. Hopefully it wont, but I think it cd.

Gwen@ChewDigestBooks.com said...

'twill be very interesting to see what Fincher doesn't with it.

It was a stunning book, an almost left me speechless book, and their antics against each other were at times terrifying. When I read it, I remember thinking that I was very grateful that it had come out after my boyfriend's divorce. His X reminded me of Amy and Flynn's writing would have given her more ideas. The fact that her characters were so....bad and unlikable was freaking eery to me because I could see some of both of them in a few people that I know.

Later, I read one of her prior books and while it wasn't as shocking or popular, I found that she really has a gift for painting mentally flawed characters and making me feel at least some compassion for all of them. It's as if she shows you a Rogue's Gallery and tells you how great that one was with animals, or the other one donated to a third-world charity monthly without fail. She finds a redeeming feature or a reason for her villains faults that somehow makes them more palatable and eerily, like us.

Gwen@ChewDigestBooks.com said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
adrian mckinty said...

Gwen

I liked that aspect too - the unlikeable couple warring with each other in a game of spy versus spy. Thats why the ending was so perfect too because no one really wins the Cold War.

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Great page turner! I was hooked from the beginning and devastated at the way the book ended. I hope there is a sequel.

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