Thursday, August 1, 2013

Book Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl

Written by: Gillian Flynn

Published: 2012

Synopsis: On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn't doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn't do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

Challenges: Romantic/Suspense for Book'd Out's Eclectic Reader Challenge

I was so careful about reading reviews for this book. I avoided reading anything beyond "i liked it" "I didn't like it", but even so I knew that this was a book full of twists and turns and "OMG YOU WON'T SEE IT COMING". And that was a problem, a really big problem, because I was always on the defence, never trusting the characters or any of the narration and waiting, always waiting, for the big shocks that were supposed to throw me backwards off my chair. And ultimately this left me feeling pretty meh about the book.

You see, with a book like this you really need to know nothing about it. Even knowing that there are twists is sufficient to put you on guard enough that you refuse to take anything at face value, and this book desperately needs you to take it at face value for it to work. You need to go into it believing everything you're reading, not questioning it and looking for the red herrings. Yes you might know it's a thriller, but if it wasn't for the myriad of professional and blogger reviews excitedly proclaiming the multiple twists the first half of the narrative would leave you thinking it was a very traditional whodunnit.

Once I got past the fact that it wasn't going to have the desired effect on me (silly me waiting a year to read a book this popular!), I actually began to enjoy the perversity of the story and enjoy the twists not for being startling but for what they added to the characters and narrative. Gillian Flynn really pushes the envelope, and while I don't think she's always successful, the direction she takes the story is rather brilliantly dark.

That said I did find the first half of the book incredibly slow going, revisiting a lot of standard thriller/missing wife tropes and full of overly flowery and ultimately useless language. Case in point this line from page 79, part of an old diary entry from Amy;
"Nick got home just after four, a bulb of beer and cigarettes and fried-egg odor attached to him, a placenta of stink"
Whenever I came across a line like this I just wanted to grab Flynn by the shoulders and scream REALLY? Considering both narrators (alternating between Nick and diary entries from Amy) are supposed to be writers and one is a journalist no less, the adjective-per-sentence rate is atrocious. Everything gets into a better rhythm by the halfway point, the writing tightens up and the pace quickens, but there are times in that first half which are really difficult to get through.

So all in all, this book is a bit of a mixed bag. By now if you haven't read it, it'll basically be something of a let-down no matter how determined you were to remain unspoiled - but that doesn't mean it isn't worth a read, or that you won't ultimately end up enjoying it. Just know that at this stage the popularity of the book will tarnish any opportunity to come at it with clear eyes, don't expect too much, don't set too much by the twists and just sit back and enjoy the soap opera madness.


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