Book review: Gone Girl

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Let me get the mundane out of the way:

I rate the book 4 on a scale of 5. It’s utterly readable, totally unputdownable, very, very contemporary in its style and mind you, it’s stylish. One of those very American pieces of work that are appealing for its Americanness. Crisp, irreverent, bold, and yes, vivid. No beating about the bush.

Will I watch the movie? I think yes, once, definitely.

I picked up Gone Girl because I missed the movie and caught the rave reviews. Since I generally prefer reading a book that has spawned the movie before I watch it, if I watch it at all based on the book, I got the book, little knowing that I would step into temporary schizophrenia – constantly juggling between two extreme narratives led by the two protagonists, Nick and Amy: Nick’s present, Amy’s diary and later on, Amy’s present and Nick’s present. At first, it was slightly wearying, to say the least, sticking with one side and deciding who’s the bad guy until the next one came along, destroying old reader loyalties.

But going on, you kinda settle in with the theme – the boat keeps on rocking and you, reader, keep swaying from side to side. The general feeling of nausea about the utter dysfunctionality, the sheer self-righteousness of that ideal of matrimony, through the story of this couple of The Dunnes (Nick Dunne and Amy Elliott Dunne), an ideal that we hold high up in our society despite evidence to the contrary, is very hard to fight.

Nick and Amy are two characters that many of us might at first describe as “everyday” – in their pithy inside jokes, their personalities, coping mechanisms to events such as the loss of their jobs, their growing disenchantment with people they are close to, even each other as well as their marriage… these challenges and situations are nothing a common girl or boy next door may not have seen. This is the backdrop that makes the best part of the story, and ends up putting the reader in no man’s land where he is compelled to sympathize with both extremes. Of course, let me say this outright that one is darker than the other. Much, much darker – a sociopath, psychopath, and yes, a criminal. Somehow, though, you even sympathise when one shoulders the guilt that should have gone squarely on the other.

The story plays with your perception, your readiness to believe in the story someone’s telling you, and then pushes it over the cliff, pushes the envelope to an extent you wouldn’t believe possible but reflected in scores and scores of gory tales of everyday domestic crimes.

The trouble is that as a society we believe there exists a continuum – for power, brutality, control, reward, happiness, for everything that matters to us. Gone Girl exposes this underlying continuum in a marriage. Literally, it lays threadbare the concept at its worst and resurrects it at its best, given the circs. As dysfunctional as Nick and Amy get, which is a lot since Nick finds himself at the center of a murder investigation, accused of murdering his wife who has disappeared, the plot unravels two personalities at so perfectly at loggerheads as to be made for each other. It cannot get more twisted. And yet, we see much more twisted stuff in real life. And we find it acceptable because itscores lower on that continuum. Ultimately, and this is the unfailing irony: Nick and Amy have a solid reason to be together, and to want to be together after everything that has happened. Both parties claim to have been hurt. One is a criminal, the other is a victim. And yet, it’s not easy to take sides. It never is. Gillian Flynn has done a great job with it.

Memorable quotes from the book: (among several)

“There’s something disturbing about recalling a warm memory and feeling utterly cold” – Nick

“Love should require both partners to be their very best at all times” – Amy

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