“It’s a very difficult era in which to be a person, just a real, actual person, instead of a collection of personality traits selected from an endless Automat of characters.”
This is that book that has rocked near everyone on my Facebook feed. My bestie read it when it first came out and lurved it. Near all the girls I went to school with, in fact, read and loved it. And as for me, well I was busy last year – that whole moving to a different country thing – and so I only got around to it now, after seeing that it was being filmed and would be released this year and figuring I would probably go see it so should read it first.
I am not going to see it, as it turns out.
Probably because – brace myself for negative comments from the blogosphere – I didn’t really like the book.
Here’s why. Spoilers follow.
On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media–as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents–the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter–but is he really a killer?
As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?
So it started off more or less promising: we’re in Nick’s head, we hear about how crap his life is, and then suddenly his wife goes missing! A few things to note: Nick is kind of miserable. And as the story progresses and you find out about his affair and his general lack of empathy in life, you kind of think, well, no wonder he’s miserable – he’s so damned self destructive! That being said – he makes for a good murder suspect, and a good protagonist, because even though you’re in his head, he’s not the most reliable of narrators. Particularly when he’s adding lines to the end of chapters like “That was the second lie.” leading you to wonder where the hell the first one was and why he was making you go through all the mental exercise required in finding it out. Of course, I like that in a protagonist, so from that perspective, we’re golden.
Also of note – Amy’s diary, or rather “diary” (I said there’d be spoilers). They just … did not convince me. I was entirely sure of what was going on, but they did not convince me. And this is where the mystery fell apart for me (way before that “twist” that seemed to catch everyone off guard 1/3 of the way into the book): Nick narrated a particular Amy – smart, witty, lively, vivacious if unhappy, slightly neurotic and above all intelligent. The “Amy” of the “diary” is TSTL. And I don’t use that lightly. I just couldn’t get past that – every time I read an entry, I’d have to suspend my disbelief so far, I just couldn’t take it seriously any more. I mean, really? Diary Amy is just too much – too forced, too unaware and too “Aw shucks, whatever you want, Nick!” to be taken seriously at all …
So that was a big turn off for me: I figured out the twist before the twist even started to manifest itself.
There were other twists: The affair Nick was having was interesting – I didn’t put it out of the realm of possibilities, but I didn’t think that it would go there (little did I know …); The parents – Amy’s parents – being all supportive of Nick was interesting, too. The one thing the novel did amazingly well is show what a horse-and-pony show investigations like this are – blame CSI or Dateline or whatever – but the second a pretty white housewife goes missing in America, her husband/boyfriend/live-in lover/whatever is the prime suspect, and you best belief Nancy Grace is going to be on her tv show (why does she have a tv show!?) hollering about victims’ rights, drugs, possible satanism and the liberal media. For that – the novel is well crafted – the suspicion turns to Nick by rote, automatically zeroing in on him, despite the fact that he is a miserable human being that is apathetic beyond any reason – seriously, at the beginning of this book, it would have been a surprise if he reacted to someone pulling out a machete and cutting off his ear, he sounds that apathetic. Of course, by the near-end, he’s all warrior king/detective … until the end where he hits this wall of resignation that whittles him down to apathy again.
But while the novel is commenting on the bias of murder, it is solid – very real, very honest, very tongue-in-cheeek but what if …?
And then we get to the part where we’re in Amy’s head.
And just … no. Just … ugh.
I was hoping for something interesting, I guess. I mean – a female psychopath is not something you get in a lot of novels or movies (I am still waiting for a female psychopath in Criminal Minds who is not pregnant/wants to be pregnant/lost a baby/lost a man/wants a man/ or the latest one – something to do with fairy tales and prince Charming? What? Do women only exist in their roles as mothers or lovers? FFS.) and I was ready for Amy. And when she’s a psychopath, she’s great!
It’s the other stuff that bothered me.
There’s this long tirade she goes on at one point about “Cool Girl”. That is, the mask she put on when she met Nick to lure him in – the cool girl is a figment of imagination that is essentially that fantasy men have that is played out in sports movies and such – thin, tall, attractive, not too talkative, overtly sexual but not slutty with a voracious appetite even though her waist remains at pre-pubescent proportions. And for a lot of that commentary I was nodding my head … until I realized how misogynistic Amy was. Like, no honestly – I dare you to read those passages again and not cringe from the overt misogny.
I just … no. I couldn’t.
I know she’s the “bad” guy, and I know we’re not supposed to like her – but Jaysus. That was ripe. And unfulfilling. All that women-bashing, and it actually feels sort of superfluous: there’s nothing in her tirade against all the “stupid women” that makes me understand her better, or empathize with her, or really anything. She just turns into this woman-hating robot that spouts off sexist remarks in a weird way to pass the time between when she leaves Nick and when she returns to him. It just .. I couldn’t.
And then there’s the end.
A lot of people disliked the ending. I am not really one of them. Only because – what other way was there to end it? Amy dead? Really? After all that? No. Nick dead? Again, after all that? No. … Can you even think of any other option? Exactly.
And for all the discomfort it causes, I kind of like it. It’s a messy, unsatisfying ending to a terrible series of events perpetuated by two dysfunctional people, and we’re not supposed to be okay with it – and if we are, then well, that says something about us, I suppose. But it’s fitting, the ending. And so I like it.
The misogyny – not so much.
What did you think of Gone Girl?
Where it’s clever: the spousal suspcion thing, the myriad of views, the complication of characters
Where it sucks: mysognist views, resolution is fitting if contrived and you can see it coming