Saturday, March 30, 2013

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

On those Saturdays where I have nothing planned other than staying in my pajamas all day, I’ve taken to watching mini-marathons of 20/20, Dateline, and 48 Hours Mysteries.  These shows could (loosely) be termed as investigative journalism and focus on the murder of one person, breaking down the crime from commission to sentencing.  Buried (pardon the pun) in the facts of the case are the narrator’s horrible analogies and imagery; for example, something like “Along with the cool winds of the north that brought a new season to the sleepy town where [victim] lived, blowing the leaves from the trees and harbouring change, so too was the feel and temperature of [victim’s] marriage changing.” Very cheesy.  But, if I’ve learnt anything from those shows, it’s to never commit a crime in passion, and that the husband is almost always the guilty party when a wife disappears/is found murdered.

That’s the take away that Gillian Flynn uses as the foundation for her latest novel, Gone Girl.  Gone Girl tells the story of Nick and Amy’s life together, from their first meeting to their first child; however, the road between these two life events is troubled and rocky, much like the town where they met, New York (sorry, Lester Holt is in my head now and told me to say that…).  

On the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick wakes up to a feeling of wanting out of his marriage, but he’s unsure how to do it.  The situation is taken out of his control, however, when he returns home around noon to find his living room ransacked and Amy missing.  What happens to Nick next is a text-book case of police procedurals; the sympathetic cops, the panicked in-laws, the supportive neighbors…. But then, it all goes sideways; in this, the world of the 24-hour news cycle, Nick’s marriage is caught by the CNN effect and takes a turn for the worse.  

Contrasted against Nick’s actions and account of his marriage, the reader is given entries from Amy’s diary.  Amy’s account of the marriage is a little different from Nicks, and it paints a picture using the same events, but with a very different spin on it.  The reader is left trying to figure out where the middle-ground between both accounts is, if Nick really is a bad guy, and what might have happened to Amy.

Flynn’s work is a delicate ballet of narratives; she lays out for us the personal narratives of her two main characters.  By that, I mean the stories and perceptions that these two characters have of themselves, and how they are seen by those around them.  It’s an elegant assessment that is transferable to all people; we each have a story that we tell ourselves about our personality/lives, we each have a story that (if we choose to acknowledge it) could be told to us about our personality/lives from those around us, and then there’s the truth.  Gone Girl examines each of these narratives for Nick and Amy, and by the end of the book, I got the sense that I knew these characters without really understanding them.  It was an engaging dynamic that Flynn used, and really enjoyable to read.

When I got a few chapters into this book, I was a little bored and got the feeling that this was going to be a standard ‘who-done it.’  I was convinced that I had the whole disappearance case wrapped up in under 50 pages.  Then I changed my mind about who I thought had done it.  Then I changed my mind again.  Then, Flynn threw in such an amazing wild card into the equation that I was hooked – I had to keep reading, I had to keep learning about Nick and Amy, and I had to know what the motives were behind Amy's disappearance.  The truth behind the entire affair is far more spectacular and interesting and engaging than any ‘who-done-it’ could ever be. 

My hands are tied in saying anything more about the plot without ruining the book, and I hate to give away endings, especially in a book like this where everyone should experience the reveal for themselves.   So, final verdict?  This is definitely a book worth reading.  Gone Girl has gotten a lot of attention since its publication for a very good set of reasons; Flynn is a master of character development and analysis, the plot is amazing and unexpected, and the writing style is well-balanced and crafted in such a way to draw the reader in.  This is Flynn’s third novel, and I’ll be checking out her first two and keeping my eye open for the fourth.  Gone Girl is an amazing read, and I’m looking forward to experiencing more of Flynn’s works in the future.

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