Sunday, January 20, 2013
Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Dystopias has been popular lately and by the time I was about two thirds in I decided that Gillian Flynn gave us one too. So what if it's not set in a post-apocalyptic future of an alternate universe and the people aren't genetically modified or lorded over by a small group of despots. This is a dystopia of a modern-day family set in a dying Midwestern town succumbing to the economical depression, and the characters are just like you and me, shopping at big box stores and plotting their spouses' death. Alright, almost like you and me.
This is a deliciously twisted story about two of the most dysfunctional people I've ever heard of, and it made me think about my marriage on a few occasions. "Do we do that?" Or worse "We do do that!" That's how this book is, it's so well-written, so grounded in the reality we know from the cream-of-something casseroles to the energetic true-crime show host who is the spitting image of Nancy Grace, so full of the little details that make the story come alive, that it's easy to believe that what happens to the Dunnes isn't just the stuff of novels, that it's based on me, you, all of us, really.
As I read the book I marveled at Flynn's skill in bringing together two thoroughly unreliable narrators, a mystery, a character study, a look at our society, secrets piled on top of one another, and an ending that left me sitting there with only one thought in my head: "Bloody hell". She pulled this off with voices that rang true despite all the falseness, a world that I know exists, and a pace that never slowed down enough for me to forget to wonder what would happen next, because even when the original mystery was solved I knew that the story was far from over. (I would've known it even if I didn't see how many pages were left in the book.) All this convinced me that at any given moment in the novel I was exactly where Flynn wanted me to be, and that kind of sensation of intention all the way made for a very reassuring experience when on the whole this book was anything but.
It's easy to sing this novel praises (I really do see what all the hype is about) but what really stayed with me was the look at family that's so unflattering and uncomfortable that most don't think about it that way. How much do we really pretend to be better than our true selves when we court? How "sustainable" is the pretense, to use Amy's word? What happens when the illusion's gone and two people end up staring at each other, horrified? And how often are we horrified as opposed to thrilled? So many questions to think about, and I applaud Gillian Flynn for asking them and for packaging them in a novel that's very difficult to put down. If you haven't read it yet, what are you waiting for?
P.S. If you don't feel like thinking about serious questions or have already read Gone Girl, or don't have the time to get sucked into it right now here's a great interview with Gillian Flynn. Enjoy!