I’m a bit late to the party reading this one but with the upcoming movie due to be released in October this year, I thought I should read the book before seeing the movie.
This is my second Gillian Flynn novel that I’ve read (finished Sharp Objects only recently), and although the dark themes and troubled characters are true to form, it was strikingly different in its composition. A credit to the author.
But I must say I am torn with this book.
Due to so much hype regarding the book and also its Best Seller status, I wanted to love it. But although I can’t say I didn’t like it, I can’t say I loved it either.
There are so many elements to consider when reviewing this complex book, so I’ll tackle in in point form in which I will no doubt try to do briefly but ultimately fail.
What I liked
The format. I liked the alternating chapters between Nick’s POV and Amy’s POV. This made the book flow well and become especially interesting when the timelines caught up with each other.
The character intricacies. Whilst I can’t say I liked either main character (I’ll get to that later) I do think the author deserves praise for deep, detailed and complex character development. Flynn uses each POV distinctly and is very much inside the characters head when writing. It makes for characters you can visualise which is important. I did enjoy reading Amy more than Nick though. Amy was direct and powerful whereas sometimes Nick seemed to ramble.
The pacing & suspense. Although I thought the first few chapters didn’t grab me and pull me straight into the story (and perhaps if it were not such a talked about book I may have hesitated to persevere), the book did build. It slowly simmered and each chapter ended with a little more desperation forcing you to read on. The tension builds and plateaus, then builds again. You feel as though you are an insect caught in a dirty, sickening spider’s web struggling to get out. You get a moment to catch your breath and then struggle closer to the edge bit by bit. When you finally do escape, the feeling is somewhat unsatisfying. (More on that later too).
Theme. This is where the author deserves the highest of accolades. Flynn is a master at tackling the darkness of human nature and ripping it open before your eyes. Dishonesty, greed, judgment, and human selfishness are all major themes throughout the book and are woven together purposefully. Flynn dissects the heart of relationships and how minor blights can, in the blink of an eye, become major crevices within a marriage. She confronts how easily one can build a social mask that all too soon becomes glued to our faces, and how easily ones self can be lost within the confines of a relationship. Flynn also tackles the economic downward spiral of America and it’s hollowing affect on society and individuals. Flynn brings both moral and economic bankruptcy to the forefront of the reader making the reader depressed and empty.
The premise. This is where I come a little unstuck between whether I liked it or not. There are elements to the premise and story-line that are brilliantly thought out and effortlessly played out by the characters. But… on the other hand as the book progresses you start to think ‘Really?… Surely not.‘ When I read, the writer in me always wonders how I would have done it differently, but usually this is just a fleeting thought. Towards the end of this book though, I couldn’t shake these thoughts. More and more I began to wonder about the different path that the story could have taken. More believable, more realistic, possibly more likable.
What I didn’t like.
The characters. Now I’m the first to say that a book doesn’t need to have likeable characters to be a good book, but… the more I read this book the more I disliked them despite my desire to like them. Nick was often distant, shallow, and cowardly. His choices in so many situations were frustrating and although I wanted to sympathise, or at the very least empathise with him he didn’t deserve it.
Amy is a character that I would normally like. Cunning, highly intelligent and deeply complex. However, as the story progresses you realise just how disturbed she is and by the end of the book I wanted her ‘Gone girl‘ as much as anyone!
Nick’s Father. Still on characters I thought the character of Nick’s Dad was poorly executed. The story-line build into an expectation that he was holding some vital information or clues as to what was going on, and I was very much surprised when nothing really powerful eventuated.
The end. I didn’t like it. I felt let down, and somewhat humiliated. It was almost as if the characters and even the author herself were saying ‘F*#! You! You thought it was going to wrap up nicely didn’t you?‘ And it’s not that I like endings where all loose ends are tied up and presented in a pretty little package. I don’t. I like a surprise, and that feeling of being left wondering what happens next. But this certainly didn’t give me the chance. It simply left me dejected. I guess in point, this was the entire premise of the novel, so from that perspective the author did her job.
Of interest, I have heard that the ending is different in the movie version. This doesn’t surprise me at all. There is no way that viewers would accept the ending in the book. So I’m a little excited to see what they have come up with. (Obviously intentional with so many people already knowing what happens).
Plot holes. After reading Flynn’s ‘Sharp Objects‘ which was tight and neat, I am a little disappointed with ‘Gone Girl’ in respect to plot. There were too many issues that were dependent on perfect timing and everything falling into place: perfectly. And we all know there is no such thing! I thought Flynn had a masterful story and concept, but she just seemed to take it a step too far, too many times. I wanted to believe that the events in the book could realistically happen, and in theory they could, but in practice I’ not convinced.
Overall I just think the book could have been so much better, and I hate that I feel that way. Perhaps I expected too much, I’m not sure. However, this is one book where I feel the movie will actually be able to tell the story so much more succinctly. Time will tell.
Have you read ‘Gone Girl’? Or plan on seeing the movie?