Thursday, June 27, 2013

June Book Review: Gone Girl

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Wow. I have a lot of not necessarily well-thought-out things to say about this book. Here goes nothing...

I really knew very little about this book - just the premise - which was described to me as "a woman disappears and the main suspect is her husband." So many people were talking about it, that I decided to make it summer reading.

Without a doubt, this is my definition of summer reading. This is just the kind of cannotputitdowndon'ttalktomeI'mreading book I was looking for when I called it "summer fluff" on my Book List in January. If my lazy brain had its way, summer reading would be all that I ever read. Because it. is. FUN. And I'm lazy. What I liked in particular about this one, though, was that it was thought-provoking fun. Just enough that I was stimulated and invested (what you might call "a page-turner"), but not enough that I felt exhausted.

I raced through this book. I got a few chapters in last week (and the chapters are short) and then put it down and finished re-reading (for the umpteenth time) The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver instead. I wasn't in the mood for a murder, and I wanted to loan a friend Barbara's first novel which I had been casually re-reading since May. Then yesterday I wasn't feeling particularly great and I literally holed up in my bed and read the whole dang thing in one sitting. That doesn't happen very often. The last time I did that, I think, was the Hunger Games trilogy which I devoured in one weekend.

Okay, so about the actual book. Meet Amy and Nick Dunne - married 5 years. On the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary Amy suspiciously goes missing. Nick doesn't have a great alibi, and slowly but surely he becomes the number one suspect. Their marriage had been rocky: unemployment, relocation, debates on whether to have children. Things look bad for Nick. Really, really bad. But for Nick to be the culprit is just too easy.... Right? 

Now to the literary structure. This book is written with typical he said/she said back and forth. Chapters are short entries, alternating either Amy's (past) or Nick's (present day) perspective. Amy's dialogue is in diary form, from entries written over the past 6 years of their relationship, and 5 years of marriage, and we gather more and more incriminating evidence against Nick as her entries unfold. Nick's input is first-hand thought and interaction play-by-play (much more interesting). You wonder as you're reading Part 1, "how long can Flynn (author) keep this up?" Amy's entries are too pointed, too obvious, so I'm not revealing anything by saying early on you suspect this isn't a cut and dry scenario.

As for the inner workings of the novel: I liked the characters. I thought some of them were certainly more original and believable than others, but I particularly loved some of their thought sequences on marriage. I didn't expect to be reading summer fluff and be caught thinking, "Shit, she's right. Marriages do fall into those categories!" And then follow that by setting down the book to think hard if I could drum up anyone I knew whose marriage that DIDN'T fall into one of the categories she listed. Dammit, I could not. There are truths about marriage to be had here folks, some uglier than others, and I think those truths are what makes this better than your run-of-the-mill CSI case. But let's face it: it doesn't take much to be better than CSI. This is really fun, "gotcha!" material, that also leaves you a tad bit more enlightened.

A analogous way of describing my overall judgement would be to say that Part 1 was like Season 1 of a stunning new TV drama series (take Homeland, for example). I was excited, hyped, immersed and intrigued. No - more than intrigued - I was a captive audience. More importantly, I believed in the characters, and I wanted to know more. There was lots of potential, lots of page turning, and lots of resisting the urge to skip ahead. Part 2 became a little questionable with some of the plot twists, and you begin to see the potential fade. It's like that point in your favorite show - typically Season 2 - where you start to get worried. Not worried for the characters exactly, but worried you might start hating the show if the writers keep going down that road, or handle the choices badly. It could go either way. Part 3? Felt a little like "I need to wrap this up.... and tie it with a bow," just as many TV series finales do. The ending wasn't bad, but it was perhaps the less interesting route to take, likely because it became the predictable route. (Not predictable as in stereotypical for all marriage-related murders, but predictable based on the setup provided in the first 2 parts.) It felt like we got beaten over the head with the "wittiness" of the ending by Flynn, as if she was saying "Look how wicked clever I am!" BAM. And then she - BAM, BAM - hit us a couple more times, just for good measure. You know, to leave a lasting impression? A cliff-hanger would have been much more satisfying in that "I'm not satisfied!" type of way good book endings have.

So bottom-line? Yes, read it! I really enjoyed it -- it was lots of fun and held my focus all the way until the end.

And yes, for the record, I am worried about Homeland Season 3. It had better not have a bow on it.

June Bonus Books:
The Bean Trees, by Barbara Kingsolver (★ ★ ★★☆ )   [A re-read and always a safe bet!]

★ - Hated it. ★★ - Didn't like it. ★★★ - Liked it. ★★★★ - Really liked it. ★★★★★ - Absolutely loved it.

1 comment:

  1. Oh - I read this a month or so ago. I agree with your take on it. I couldn't put it down, but I felt a bit unsatisfied (and also rather icky) by the end.