Review: Gone Girl

Gone Girl book coverOoh, look at me reading Gone Girl a mere years after everybody else.

So, I’m a little bit late to the party. But as it turns out, it’s a very good party and I’m really glad I came; even if everybody else is quite drunk already and there’s only plain Pringles left.

Gone Girl is the sort of book I love. I’m basically a big coward you see. I like life to be quiet and generally quite jolly and peaceful; I’m the sort of person who feels a bit queasy if I get a sternly-worded email at work. Gone Girl is a book about extremes; extreme people doing extreme things and living with the consequences. Reading it allows me to vicariously experience the horror of some truly awful situations without the actual, you know, horror.

I didn’t realize until after I’d finished reading that Gone Girl that it has attracted an amount of controversy and debate. I found this article in Ms Magazine by Natalie Wilson about the issue of privilege in the novel, and from this I followed the links to articles on misogyny and the myth of women crying rape. Serious stuff. And I highly recommend reading some of these well-thought out perspectives.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t actually pick up these issues when reading. There were two main things that really struck me about the book.

  1. This is a book that I really enjoyed, yet came away feeling that there was no one likable character in the whole thing. Nick and Amy are both egotistical and selfish; Nick is a liar who will go to any lengths to be liked, while Amy is, let’s be honest, a total sociopath. What’s interesting to me is that these are the only two characters who have a voice, everyone else in the book is described to us by Nick or Amy or both of them. Every character is seen through the prism of Nick and Amy’s own prejudices and agendas. Desi gets the worst of it and, in the end, Amy makes very sure that he can never put his own side across.
  2. Which brings me to my second point, there are two narrators and both of them are spectacularly unreliable. Nick lies outright and lies by omission, he is a narcissist who frequently refers to his own good looks and the dissonance between his public face and his private self. Amy is in another league altogether; she manipulates the world and everyone in it to fit her own personal narrative. She constantly refers to the difficulties attached to being the ‘character’ in her parents’ books, and has seemingly responded to this by treating everyone she knows as a character in her fiction and rearranging their lives to suit her own needs.

So the question you have to ask at the end of this novel is; can you trust anything you’ve just read?

 

I loved this book. It’s a cracking thriller which pulls off the neat trick of being a fantastic beach read while fueling lively literary debate.

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