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.