My brain wants to dissect every plan, every clue, every plot twist in Gone Girl. Except, I don't. Not really. I know I'm nearly the last person in America to read it at this point, but I often read one step behind the rest of the world. Just in case you are one step behind even me, I will warn you that many spoilers are about to happen.
Gone Girl. I was careful to not let my eyes dart across reviews or blog posts about it. Other than knowing it was particularly twisty and dark, I had no idea what the plot was when I put my name on the hold list at the library months ago. It arrived this week, and I read it today. Dark and twisty felt right for a cold Friday afternoon, sun streaming in through the curtains at just the right angle.
I was underwhelmed. I like twisty. I like having two points of view to work with. I enjoy a character who is ready to do a little self-analyzing. I like diary entries in books. There were a lot of things seemingly in the plus column for this book - until they weren't.
Two points of view are great until you realize you loathe both of them. At that point, it just feels like twice the torture.
The more Nick analyzed himself, the more I felt like Gillian Flynn was manipulating the reader into forgiving him, liking him, wanting to be on his side even though he had killed Amy. Even though you didn't believe he had killed Amy. Even though he had killed Amy. Even though he was a cheater. Even though he hadn't killed Amy, and only fantasized about it constantly - before, during, and after her disappearance. Here's the thing. I don't like Nick. I could barely bring myself to feel sorry for him at any point in the book.
Diaries are great reading because they are often unfiltered; they hold those words that aren't uttered aloud. They can be personal or clinical in a recording of the day kind of way. There are many directions to take a diary. Heck, my own journals read like a combination of all of that if you were to pick out several random days to read (please don't). But it did not take many chapters for Amy's diary entries to feel contrived. Knowing later that they were contrived did not make that better for me. It just made me feel like the writing was lazy, because in the book those diary entries were supposed to be so convincing to the police and her family that they could not possibly have a contrived air about them at all.
How do you know if a diary is fake?
A. The diary author stops twice to point out that she correctly used me instead of I in her sentence.
B. The diary author says things like, "I think he is going to kill me" in a diary that she presumably would have kept in the home with this soon-to-be-murderous man.
C. The diary author actually includes quizzes in it as a hat tip to her job of being a quiz writer even thought that is something that only people in movies do.
D. All of the above
Answer: D. But A is the most annoying.
Seriously Gillian Flynn, thanks for the grammar lesson. I already knew when to use I and when to use me, but clearly you are on a one-woman mission to teach the rest of the world how to do it right. Will you fake your own murder and implicate the grammar-abusing people of America in your death if they do not begin using those two words correctly?
This was a book that, like Amy's fake diary, tried too hard. It tried too hard to be dark and twisty. It tried too hard to be a little bit of everything: Rich, educated New York girl. Hard-working midwestern boy. Bad economy. Bad parents (bad in two different ways - just to cover all the bases). The "Blue Book Boys" living in an abandoned mall and supposedly roaming the town like a gang. Perfect marriage (Amy's parents). Broken marriage (Nick's parents). Toxic marriage (Amy and Nick). Rednecks. Stalkers. Rapists. Stalkers and rapists who were set up. Old money. New money. No money. Love as a prison. Preppy boarding school. Abused women hiding out until their bruises faded. Names that were purely ridiculous. Cultural and literary references that feel forced onto the characters when they were supposed to make them seem hip, special, or (with a nod to Amy) "cool."
With all of the tired stereotypes Flynn trotted out, I should have at least been able to identify with one character in the book, even accidentally, but it never happened. And the sideways indictment of the Nancy Grace/TV tabloid culture that permeated the storyline has been done before, and done better.
Somewhere in the middle of the second part, I was kind of hoping Desi would jump out of the bushes and kill everyone. Maybe he could have joined forces with that girl who didn't actually try to take over Amy's life in high school and the guy who never actually raped Amy, and they could have bombed the Mississippi River. At least it would have put me out of my reader's misery.
This takes me back to being underwhelmed. There was some good writing. I didn't immediately guess the twisty plot, and the ending was a bit of a shock (although I did have it on my list of possible endings, so it wasn't that much of a shock). Maybe it is just all of the hype that surrounded it. Maybe I expected more. Maybe I expected something different. Maybe the sunlight wasn't streaming in at an exactly perfect angle this afternoon like I originally thought. But no matter how many outside circumstances stood in the way of me not loving this book as much as everyone else seemed to love it, I think the majority of the blame still sits with Flynn and her writing choices. The smugness that dripped off of every page. And the pointing out of the correct usage of the word me. Twice. I don't think I will ever be able to forgive that.
Have you read Gone Girl?
Did you like it? If so, I would love for you to argue with me a bit here, and bring me over to your side. I wanted to like it. I really did.