Friday, 26 July 2013

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

***SBRs 6th Best Read for 2013***

Publication date: 24th May 2012
Published by: Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Genre:  Contemporary/Crime Mystery

Gone Girl is a popular novel.  It is one of those novels that I have seen countless people reading on my daily commute into central London.  I generally avoid popular books.  I only became interested in this one after listening to an interview with the author, Gillian Flynn, on a book-related podcast - it might have been the Guardian or BBC R4, I can’t remember.   It seemed to me that this book was not a typical crime thriller but something more.  Having read it, I can confirm that this is indeed the case.

For me this book is not a crime thriller.  It is a mystery but it is more about a breakdown of a marriage and a clash of the genders than anything else.  

The premise of the book is that Nick, the male protagonist, discovers that his wife, Amy, has gone missing on their 5th wedding anniversary.  We know that on the morning of the day she went missing he got out of bed and prepared himself to face her, following a blazing argument of the night before.  We know that, having psyched himself up to face her, a major event occurs between them, but we don’t know what.  We know at some point Nick leaves the house after that and when he returns Amy is missing.  The front door has been left open, the iron has been left on and the living room is in disarray, as if there was a struggle - all suggesting that Amy may have been taken against her will.  These events are told to us by Nick (first person narrative) and at the same time (alternating chapters) we get to know Amy through extracts of her diary.  Once the police are involved it becomes a crime mystery and Nick is the prime suspect.  As the novel progresses it increasingly appears as though Nick is a nasty character and that Amy was becoming increasingly fearful of him – to the point where she tried to buy a gun to protect herself (just in case).  It would seem clear to the reader what has happened and it is hard not to dislike the culprit and hope they get what they deserve...

I think Gone Girl is well-written, original and clever.  I was impressed by the portrayal of US contemporary life.  It would seem to me that, although this marriage was destined for disaster, things kicked off because of socio-economic factors that led to the couple losing their jobs; here is a financially well-off couple with a comfortable life in New York who find themselves with no alternative but to move to a small town in Missouri – and just as it is on the verge of economic decline!  There are plenty of references to what life is like living within the constraints of the current economic downturn, which made it more real and gave it context.  

Amy struck me as very much the ‘City Girl’. (I kept wondering if this would have happened to Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw if she had chosen Aiden over Mr Big.) This new environment was never going to bode well with her.  It would be fair to describe Amy as ‘high-maintenance’ and Nick finds he has to constantly jump through hoops in an attempt to satisfy her – to no avail – resulting in a downward spiral of their relationship - a relationship I would describe as extreme love-hate.  They both struck me as screwed-up characters.  One of them (I won’t say which) – the abuser – has psychopathic tendencies and I could not understand or reconcile with this behaviour.   The other – the abused – seemed to be trapped by the desire to remain with the abuser, also hard to reconcile with.  It was all very strange.

I mentioned that there is a clash of the genders.  For me the book is very much about gender inequality and misogyny – (‘Clean and bleed’, need I say more?)  

I loved reading every page of this book and I found it thought-provoking.  I’m still thinking about it days later.  By the end I was left feeling uncomfortable and a little melancholy on account of the controversial ending, but that is part of the appeal for me. It is part of what made it such a good book. I think, like the rest of if, the ending was brilliantly done.

Now I know what all the fuss is about!  Gone Girl is definitely one of my best reads so far for 2013. 


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