Thoughts on "Gone Girl"

I've had some time to process Gone Girl, and to try to scrape off some of the ice clinging to my skeleton about it. It is the most disturbing book I've ever read. I'm keeping this brief (for me) and spoiler-free (at least as far as what I'd term spoilers) because I really want to encourage anyone who hasn't read it to pick up a copy.

Gillian Flynn's novel is a masterpiece. It's a suspenseful, psychological mindfuck and in a really twisted and probably intentional way, a love story. Because you can't destroy and manipulate someone as masterfully as Nick and Amy do if you don't know them to their core.

The book has been described as the story of a marriage gone horribly wrong. It is certainly that, but when I reached the end, there was so much that I hadn't been able to sort into truth or lies that I couldn't tell you exactly how their marriage went wrong. And as I've already said, there's something about this toxic union that reads like a love story. Nick and Amy may just be perfect for each other ... even though Nick may or may not have murdered her.

That, of course, is the question. It's why you pick up the book, because of the mystery of Amy's disappearance and the near certainty that her husband, who counts the number of lies he's told police, is behind it. But he doesn't count the number of lies he's told you.

Being betrayed by a narrator is a strange sensation. You get used to first-person narrators being biased and unreliable, but liars and tricksters? That's novel. I managed to guess one of the major twists, but Flynn outsmarted me every other step of the way. Every time I thought I understood the game, she dropped a tornado on the game board. Every time I thought I'd understood the depth of her deception, I tripped down another cliff.

The story unfolds from New York to Missouri, against backdrops of abundant, romantic times and bleak, hateful times, for the couple at the center of the tale and for the world around them. It'll be interesting to see how it translates to film. Director David Fincher did Fight Club, another complex book adaptation, so I believe it's in good hands. Ben Affleck is dead-on casting for Nick. I'm less sure about Rosamund Pike as Amy, and the trailers show very little of her other than empty gazes. I'm most curious to see how they handle the dueling internal monologues and Amy's diary, which is integral to the plot but that could be tricky to put on screen.

The book delves into the idea of identity, one of my favorite themes. We think we know who Amy is, but that might be a shaky concept even for her. At one point that seems to resonate with a lot of readers, she talks about how women try to be the Cool Girl, because that's what men want. “Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl," Amy tells us. "Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding." So basically, a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. In a novel loaded with unsympathetic characters, I sympathize so much with Amy trying to meet other people's expectations, trying to be a triumphant ideal and looking around asking herself, so, why is this supposed to be fun, again?

I lost sleep reading this book and more sleep thinking about it in the days after I finished it. I hated the ending so much. I desperately want Flynn to write a sequel. There's so much more I want to know and and she's acknowledged that she knows the ultimate fates of her characters and that the possibility of a sequel exists. I love her writing style. Even her ugliest, meanest sentences, the ones meant to make you cringe, show artistry and craftmanship. I wanted to keep living in these characters' sick, sad worlds a little longer.

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