Flynn, Gillian. Gone Girl. New York: Crown Publishers, 2012.
I rarely ever read “It” books, because I generally find that they disappoint me. So many people had mentioned this one to me, though, and it sounded like such an interesting premise, I decided to give it a go. Boy, do I now want everyone to read it, so I can discuss it with him or her, but I really hate to recommend it to those who haven’t. Is it a page-turner? Yes. Does it live up to its reputation for giving us no “good” characters? Absolutely. Is it a fascinating study in sociopathy? Unbelievably so – and yet I believed.
Flynn is a very good writer, which impressed me and is one of the reasons I was easily dragged into the book. So many “It” books these days are written at a third-grade reading level and feature an average one typo per page. They’re so poorly edited I often have to abandon them. Not only is Flynn a good writer, but she manipulates the reader in such a way that instead of being put off by it, a reader like me finds herself thinking, “Oh, keep manipulating me, please. I can’t believe how well you do that.”
The whole book is sort of a masochistic experience like that. Instead of thinking, “Oh, come on. Please give me at least one decent character,” I found myself thinking, “Wow, tell me more about all these horrible people. Are there any evil depths to which they can’t sink?” These are not your run-of-the-mill liars, cheaters, and murderers. They are insane connivers and contrivers, self-absorbed misanthropes to the nth degree. By the end of the book, I did find myself rooting for one of the characters, but barely.
The book was well written, detailed, and clever. It was also “un-put-down-able.” I read it in record time. So, why didn’t I like it? (Warning: the answer to this question includes spoilers.)
I didn’t like it because it was an extremely sexist book. I don’t think Flynn intended it to be. She might have been striving for what I once read Margaret Atwood say when her book The Robber Bride was published. Atwood said that women will never be equal to men in our society until women writers write truly evil female characters the way male writers write truly evil male characters (or something to that effect. I read that quote about 20 or so years ago). Maybe that’s what Flynn was trying to do, but I’m not convinced. To me, this book just evolved into the classic tale of a “psychobitch” (funny that term is bandied about so much in the book. It’s a term I hate), a selfish, self-absorbed, manipulative woman who eventually traps a man by getting pregnant. It’s a story men have been telling for years, and it reinforces the fear that all women have the potential of becoming like this, that men need to stay on their toes.
After keeping me mesmerized, the book just fell apart at the end. Flynn could have done so much more with these brilliant, unlikable characters. She’d set us up to have no clue who was and who wasn’t telling the truth. She could have given us a truth that was so much more dynamic and interesting. A book that, at first, had seemed so original just dissolved into a tired old story with a new hook and a couple of deceptive twists.
Bottom line? It’s too contrived and was such a letdown, despite the fact it got all those rave reviews from critics. If you read it and loved it, please let me know what I’m missing.