I mentioned last week that I was reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and that I hoped to finish it over the weekend to be able to see the movie on “$5 Tuesday” at the local (and by “local” I mean “only one town over”) Regal Cinema.
I almost made it. I finished Monday evening.
So now I’m going to try to focus my thoughts on the story into a blog post – without giving too much away. Because I’d hate it if you read this post and then didn’t feel the need to read the book because of it.
Let me start by giving what’s become my general feedback about this story to anyone I know who’s considering or planning to read it. The book is written in three parts. Part one is a quick jog. From the final paragraph of Part 1 clear up until the last word of the last sentence of Part 3 is a full on sprint. There’s no break in the action. Just when you think there should be some falling action, and it feels like you might be entering some, you find out that you’re wrong. You can see on the cover of the book (in the image above), that it’s been called “Thriller of the Year.” I think that’s a pretty great description. This book was a wonderful read. Outside of sponsored book reviews and read-alouds with the boys, it’s the first book I’ve finished in a long time. I like reading, but I’ve been having trouble finding something “worth” reading recently, so I think my finishing this book is pretty high praise.
Nick and Amy Dunne have been married five years. Exactly five years, actually; today is their anniversary. Not all of those years have been peachy. Both parties are beginning to become disenchanted with the idea of marriage – at least this marriage. They’ve been fighting more and more with each passing day. But today, on their fifth anniversary, it’s time to make things right. Amy creates her annual treasure hunt for Nick – a series of clues taking him all over town (New York City when they were newlyweds, now North Carthage, Missouri, where they moved to care for Nick’s mother who was dying of cancer) chronicling the past year of their lives together.
But Amy never gets a chance to give Nick the first clue.
While he’s busy at the bar he owns with his sister (ironically named The Bar), a phone call comes for Nick. It’s his across-the-street neighbor. “Your front door is standing wide open, and your cat is outside. I know he’s an inside cat, so I thought it was weird that he was out. You’d better come home and make sure everything’s okay.”
Everything is not okay. The scene Nick comes home to is something no husband – or wife – ever wants to see: signs of a struggle in his living room and a missing wife.
Where is Amy?
Sounds good, huh? 😉
I’m no good at analyzing themes and such of books, so I’m going to limit myself to what I think I can do well. Decently, at least. And that would be simply talking about the book itself, what I liked and disliked about it, and then comparing it to the movie version.
First of all, this book is smart. It’s an intense psychological thriller that compels you to continue reading from the very first page. It’s told from the point of view of both Nick and Amy. Nick’s portions are told in the present day (July 2012), using first person past tense. Amy’s portions are told via diary entries starting from the night she met Nick clear up until she disappeared, using first person present tense. I’ve read a lot of stories written this way (using dual points of view), and you can usually tell that both are written by the same author. And in the case of women writing men’s parts (which is mostly what I’m familiar with), it’s obvious that’s what’s happening. Not so with Gone Girl. Ms. Flynn does a superb job changing voices. She’s able to go back and forth between the two main characters with amazing ease, and that makes it a joy to read. As much as a thriller can be a “joy,” anyway.
I loved all the twists and turns, which starting in Part 2 (where it moves from “jogging” to “sprinting”) are plentiful. I’m not normally a “predictor” when I read or watch movies; I prefer to let the author (or screenwriter) tell their story rather than project my thoughts onto it. That said, there was one point in the book that I thought I knew how it was all going to play out, and I was wrong. Couldn’t have been more wrong, actually. Turns out I’d underestimated one of the key players in the novel. I was kind of glad to have been wrong; it made me think that Ms. Flynn was all the better a storyteller.
As for dislikes, I can honestly think of only one: this book has a lot of cursing. A lot. It wouldn’t be fair of me to recommend this book without putting that out there, because it might be something that would cause you choose to pass on it. But I hope you don’t. I hope you do like I did and replace the curses in your head as you read them with words that are less offensive to you. Despite the fact that I didn’t particularly appreciate all the cursing, I can see how – for these characters – it was a part of who they were. I don’t think it’s out of place in the world Ms. Flynn created. It’s just not something I chose to “say aloud in my head.”
On to the movie.
Let me start by saying that if you’re one of those people who dislike Ben Affleck (I’m not), see this movie anyway. He’s fabulous in it. He is absolutely the perfect Nick. And Rosamund Pike as Amy was brilliant casting as well. I’m not familiar with any of her other work, but she brought Amy to life in ways I don’t think another actress could have. (I read that Reese Witherspoon is the one who purchased the movie rights for this book, and that she therefore wanted to play Amy. When she hired director David Fincher, he told her that he didn’t think she was right for the role, so she graciously stepped down. Fincher made the right call. Witherspoon would have been terrible in this role.)
The screenplay was written by Gillian Flynn herself, which I’d never heard of – an author adapting their own novel for the big screen. I don’t know why movie studios don’t do this more often. Who knows the source material better than the author of the source material? No one. So giving Flynn a chance to write the screenplay (her first) was a risk that paid off. It was a very good adaptation of the book. There were a few things that just can’t be made clear in film like they can in a first-person-point-of-view novel, and that was true in this movie. Things like main characters’ relationships with minor characters, especially. There were moments in the book where motivations were made clear (easy to do when you’re telling the story from the character’s point of view), and several of those moments were missing from the movie. Those moments make things make more sense, but they don’t harm the story irreparably. My other criticism of the movie version is that it leaves out one crucial (I think) line from the end of the book, which makes Nick’s final motivations crystal clear; the movie ends before that line, and in my opinion that makes for a less satisfying ending. Just as chilling, but less satisfying.
All told, I found this story completely compelling, and I would highly recommend it.
Have you read the book? Seen the movie yet? If not, have I inspired to do either? Let me know in the comments!