Thursday, January 10, 2013

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I'm the bitch who makes you better, Nick....I'm the bitch who makes you a man.

Gone Girl is a thriller, and as a result I can't really talk about it without spoiling it.  It's good, though, and worth the read.  I can't remember a book that evoked such strong impressions in me and then completely turned them on their head.  I'm still trying to figure some things out, but I will say this: I think it's probably hard to write a thriller/mystery that straddles the line between predictable and absurd, but this book achieved that goal in a very satisfying way (even despite the review I read prior to reading the book that clued me into the twist).

For the first half of the book, I was distracted and kind of pissed off by the constant, uninspired misogyny.  All of the women were shrews or nags, constantly slaves to the whim of their feminine emotions.  The book is half told through Nick, the husband whose wife, Amy, goes missing, so I wanted to chalk it up to him being a misogynist and that trait being just one of the ways Flynn tries to make him somewhat of an antihero (or just a miserable jackass).  But the hits keep coming from other characters, too.  Nick's sister and father spit out unflattering opinions of women in general, and the perspective comes through in the chapters from Amy's POV, told through her diary entries from the day she meets Nick through her disappearance.  The sentiment is so internalized as she berates herself repeatedly for being upset when Nick is an inconsiderate jackass.

Fortunately, Flynn flips this message on its head.  Earlier in the book, Nick talks about the effect of his parents' divorce on his mother.  His father was emotionally abusive, and after his mother escaped from his influence she blossomed and became the happy, caring, outgoing person she was before she married him.  At this point, I noted that I hoped that the incessant misogyny was a vehicle for the theme that women aren't these terrible creatures, but that men's cruelty toward them shape them into (or make them seem to be) these insufferable bitches.  Nick even confirms this at one point, thinking, "I turned her into the brittle, prickly thing she became.  I had pretended to be one kind of man and revealed myself to be quite another.  Worse, I convinced myself our tragedy was entirely her making.  I spent years working myself into the very thing I swore she was: a righteous ball of hate."   Even this theory is a little suspect because it denies women's agency and ability to live their lives uncontrolled by men, but I thought it was better than the irredeemable misogyny I thought Flynn was espousing.

About halfway through, however, the chapters from Amy's point of view switch from her diary to her experiences after her (spoiler alert) staged disappearance and we see what a brilliant sociopath she really is.  She immediately launches into a diatribe against exactly the anti-feminist situations that had so irritated me in the first half of the book.  She explains that for the first half of her relationship with Nick she was pretending to be the "Cool Girl," the one who pretends to like football and pretends not to mind when her boyfriend/husband ignores her and generally acts like a doormat.  "They're not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they're pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be," she says.  Most of her bile is directed at these women themselves, but that makes sense coming from the character, who, it turns out, has a massive superiority complex.  I think we can safely consider the criticism to be directed at society as a whole, which convinces women that if they are to ever find a husband they have to become something they are not and simply cater to his desires.  I must say, it was a relief to see the book take this direction, not to mention thrilling.  I had suspected that Amy might not be dead, but I had taken her diary character (which it turns out was almost entirely made up in order to frame Nick) at face value, and it was exciting to be completely surprised.

The remainder of the book continues to subvert this message, with Nick becoming the pawn to be manipulated to meet Amy's wants and needs.  I thoroughly enjoyed Gone Girl and would definitely recommend it, especially if you're looking for something fun and not too deep.

5 comments:

Christopher said...

This reminds me of the reviews for Ian McEwan's new book, although obviously that's going to be a lot different. But both are about male expectations of females, and are deceptive in some way.

billy said...

I've heard good things about Sweet Tooth; it's on my list.

Marlene Detierro said...

This is a great reading slump book. I have one more Gillian Flynn to read, but I did like Gone Girl more than Sharp Objects. It is creepy and good too though.

Marlene Detierro (Fishing Lodge Alaska)

Micaella Lopez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Micaella Lopez said...

Great book, so hard to put down. Ending was a total let down. Baffled by it. Like other reviewers i felt the author just got tired of writing and stopped. However bad the ending was, the rest of the book was very compelling, up until the end.

Mica
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