Gone girl*—there’s a girl, and she’s gone! The title does most of my summarizing for me, so I’ll keep it brief and show you the decency of not giving away any more than the back of the book does. As most of you may know, this novel is the inspiration behind the newly released Oscar-buzzing film. Like any female who has eyes, I have a huge crush on Ben Affleck. When I heard that he was going full on nude for this film, I decided I had to read this book as quickly as humanly possible before I could hit the theatres. I’ll put on my movie critic cap for a hot second and say that he honestly was spot on in his portrayal of the character. That naked chick from the Blurred Lines music video also makes an appearance, so guys and girls alike can enjoy because ~objectification is in~.
The novel itself is divided into thirds and each chapter goes back and forth between the husband (Nick Dunne) and the wife (Amy Dunne). Nick’s sister, Margo, is also heavily involved which is tight because she reminds me of Kim Kelly from Freaks and Geeks. The see-saw structure allows the reader to see two perspectives of the same problem—a catastrophically failing marriage. Additionally, in my opinion, it serves as a metaphor for the tug-of-war nature of their relationship. Having been betrothed for five years, they begin to succumb to the claustrophobic strains of both financial and relational hardships; their increasingly blatant lack of connection causes them to become people that they didn’t want to be (nagging, untrusting, overbearing, etc.) which in turn creates an even deeper rift between them due to resentment. Their obligations slowly morph into “Love-Honor-and Obey” because they can no longer differentiate between the concepts of love and control (Flynn, 352). The matrimonial trifecta—wow, marriage sounds like so much fun!
Their marriage was not always necessarily destined for doom; it actually had the makings of a very healthy, enduring relationship in its incipient stage. Sure, their backgrounds seemed incontrovertibly incompatible—she was a trust fund girl from an uptight family and he didn’t even know how to pronounce quinoa. In his defense, I only discovered quinoa even existed as a substance a little over a month ago (on Labor Day to be exact—shout out to my girl Callie Jones). Truthfully, I still don’t know how to pronounce it. Despite his lack of suitable grain knowledge, they hit it off with some ground rules in mind. Most importantly, they refused to settle. They mocked “if only” relationships in which married men and women claimed that their marriage would be better off “if only…” (Flynn, 29). They acknowledged that one of the benefits of being with someone is to be known and understood intuitively. This notion reminds readers that maybe there is a certain shallowness to a relationship if it does not challenge you. They helped make each other who they are…which leads them to wonder who they are without each other.
Of course, this can all get very tricky. What if who you are to them isn’t really who you are? There are disastrous consequences of pretending to be something you’re not just to get someone to like you. Reason number 928348 why you should order a burger on the first date rather than a salad, otherwise it’s just bad precedent. In all seriousness, it’s obviously unsustainable to keep up appearances when you’re in an intimate relationship—there’s nothing intimate about pretenses. Their passion for each other is thus tempered by their inability to fully define themselves. For instance, Amy mentions that she doesn’t want to be someone people just like; she’d hate to be written off simply as a “nice girl”. If you had to describe me with one word and you chose “nice”, I’d probably slap you in the face just to prove you wrong. People are complex and Amy doesn’t want to be one-dimensional; even if it means that things get a little messy, she’d rather spice it up. Preach. Unfortunately, in the days before Amy goes missing, Nick felt like instead of knowing her, he was mostly trying to solve her. But was he the mastermind behind her disappearance?! You’ll have to read and see.
In terms of psychological insight, the novel does impressively well. It has some thought-provoking deeper-level moments of substance, like when Nick questions the sentience of humans. He is being so closely criticized in his response to his wife’s disappearance that oftentimes he is forced to artificially craft his emotions in order to garner support. He’s seen the movies, read the books, and perused the articles—he knows how a caring, loving husband is supposed to react when his wife goes missing. And isn’t that to some degree what we all do? We draw on all of the emotional data we’ve subconsciously collected over the years and subsequently understand how to appropriately respond to a given situation. To be simplistic, our reactions might stem from the brain rather than the heart because “we are all working from the same dog-eared script”—a script which reflects what others have already done/said/looked like in a similar scenario (Flynn, 73). I can’t help but think of my post on Aldous Huxley’s Doors of Perception* in which he claims that each of us is an “island universe” only capable of empathizing with one another by synthesizing what we’ve witnessed or experienced in the past (Huxley, 13). Food for thought.
Overall, I felt that the novel was largely a commentary on how women sometimes feel (whether it’s true or not) that most men want to fashion them for their own purposes rather than let them just be themselves. This is an interesting and semi-valid complaint considering the utter lack of female agency until recent decades. At the same time, it's not that straightforward. Flynn does not want to put anything or anyone into a defined box--including feminism. In light of this, I wondered what the author’s husband thought about her writing. Like, “Hey honey, when you put that bit in about the husband and wife hating each other deep down…uh… that doesn’t reflect how you feel about me, riiiight?” Gillian Flynn has published three novels: Sharp Objects (2006), Dark Places (2009), and Gone Girl (2012). I have not read the other two but I can imagine these names are not exactly comforting to a husband. He is a lawyer—hopefully a divorce attorney so he can divorce her ass if she ends up adopting the ways of her fictional characters.
At the risk of sounding like a complete and total douche, this book is excellent for some lowbrow reading. Everyone needs their light literature dessert, so to speak, and this will reasonably quench your thirst for a suspenseful crime drama. Kind of like eating a bowl of Blue Bell ice cream (the only ice cream anyone should be eating, the South does it right) without whipped cream. I mean it’s really good and everything…but you could do better. The novel is extremely creative but it’s also sort of a cheap—albeit masterful—exploitation of the reader’s emotions to make it more entertaining. Consequently, Gone Girl gets 3 out of 5 camel humps. The most significant factor in my rating was the handful of plot holes in the ending—admittedly though, it was a tough story-line to finish writing. Still, fairly disappointing when a novel is air tight for the first two thirds before it goes caput.
*Flynn, Gillian. Gone Girl. New York: Crown Publishers, 2012. Print.
*Huxley, Aldous. The Doors of Perception & Heaven and Hell. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 2004. Print.