Well I can’t say that I wasn’t warned. Lots of people assured me very kindly that I wouldn’t much like Gone Girl, and they were right. Gone Girl was the September pick for my book club – only the third book I have read with this group, so I was still keen to participate. I’m glad that I made myself read the novel as it made for an interesting and entertaining discussion on Thursday evening. The group is going to watch the film the week after next and I am very curious as how they translate the novel to the big screen, actually I think the book will possibly do better as a film.
During our book group discussion the other evening it was suggested that the book may have been written with the film already in mind – the book first published in 2012, the film already made and due for release in the UK in the next couple of weeks. Considering how long it generally takes for a book to make it to the big screen, this time line does suggest that Gillian Flynn might have been asked to write the book alongside the screenplay (which she certainly also wrote). However, according to the oracle that is Wikipedia – that is not how it happened at all, apparently one of the film producers read the manuscript in 2011… and the rest as they say is history. Whichever way it happened this successful book/film combination is set to make a few people a lot of money.
So back to the book – and seeing as almost everyone who is ever likely to want to read this book probably already has – and everyone else probably won’t care I won’t go in to too many details – but just in case include no spoilers either.
“There’s something disturbing about recalling a warm memory and feeling utterly cold.”
The novel is told in two (completely indistinct whiney) voices – those of Nick Dunne and his wife Amy Elliott Dunne in the form of her diary. Nick and Amy have been married exactly five years as the novel opens, on the day that Amy disappears from the family home. Nick and Amy have not long been living in Missouri- having moved away from New York City following Nick’s redundancy from the magazine he wrote for. Now Nick owns a bar with his twin sister Margo – known as Go – bought with Amy’s money. Amy is the adored and spoiled daughter of children’s story writers Marybeth and Rand Elliott, who have made a huge amount of money out of their series of Amazing Amy books, – a character their daughter has had to live up to her whole life. On the day that Amy disappears, the house is discovered to be in some disarray, the house cat sat bemusedly on the doorstep, the front door standing open, the iron left on. The police are duly informed and an investigation begins. Next we meet detectives Jim Gilpin and Rhonda Boney (has a female police officer ever been more improbably named?) Their sights are almost immediately set on Nick, who doesn’t help matters at all, being his own worst enemy on several fronts. Amy’s parents are called in from New York, and suddenly the country’s media is obsessed with the disappearance of the blonde beauty that inspired the Amazing Amy books.
“People want to believe they know other people. Parents want to believe they know their kids. Wives want to believe they know their husbands.”
The novel is structured so that Amy’s story is told in flashback through her diary entries – beginning with the time she met Nick. There is then apparently a huge twist coming about half way through the book – which wasn’t so huge, as I guessed about page 30 that that was where we were going. Despite having heard so much about this book over the last two years I had somehow missed the fact that there was a huge twist – so I wasn’t expecting it or looking out for it – so, that I saw it coming a mile off says a lot.
There is a feeling straight away that Nick is an unreliable narrator- most of the characters are vile, unlikeable people – but there are lots of other red flags too. In fact the reader is sort of slapped in the face rather with one or two red herrings – so much so that I as a reader immediately realised they were just that – red herrings. I don’t want to talk about the rest of the story, for fear of spoilers, but there are twists and turns and revelations – none of which had me falling off my chair and several of which seemed at best improbable. There is plenty of nastiness and I became increasingly irritated with both Amy and Nick, and ceased to care what happened to either of them. When it came (as well as a sense of relief that the stupidness was finished) I felt a sense of satisfaction with an ending that many people who quite like the novel didn’t like at all. Then there is the length of the novel, 460 pages – which feels over long and padded out (like this review – ha!)– there is a lot that is dull and unnecessary in the book, but then the length is only one of many things wrong with the book. Plot holes, mediocre writing, two dimensional characters, and red herrings waving at the reader from the page all annoyed me intensely. If however you enjoy a purely plot driven page turning narrative then you might enjoy this book a lot more than I did.