Thursday, October 18, 2012

1106. Gone Girl


Sometimes what we think of as a successful marriage is not, and sometimes when we think people are putting on appearances, they're doing just that. They are putting on a show to hide how they really feel inside. The voice inside might be crying, might be yelling obscenities or bloody murder towards a loved one or the whole world, but sometimes a calm person walks on by you, bathed in the thin veneer of nothingness. Is this person shallow? Or have we just crossed paths with a sociopath or worse, a psychopath? We have many examples in real life of seemingly normal people "snapping" and hurting those next to them, whether coworkers, fellow students or random people. But what makes people sociopaths? Art, and fiction in its many forms have tried over the years to explore this issue. Alfred Hitchcock was really successful in exploring it in some of his films, such as Psycho. Over the years, many writers have written some great and some not so great novels to investigate the issue, and explore it along with us. Into this space, comes Gillian Flynn, a former Entertainment Weekly reporter, writing her third published novel.

Considering that this is Gillian Flynn's third novel, and that both of her previous novels were successful commercially and with critics, there was little possibility this would be a flop, or a bad novel. The reality is that this novel has been on the best seller list for over 18 weeks, a remarkable achievement which suggests that people really like the book. But more importantly, it suggests that the book is successful in navigating the subjects it tries to explore.

The story begins simply enough when housewife Amy Dunne disappears in the middle of a warm summer morning (I believe it's the 4th of July weekend). It's also Nick and Amy Dunne's Anniversary. {ed: Why do so many people get married around the 4th of July?}  Nick returns home to find that Amy has disappeared and finds clues of a struggle. This is when he calls the police. Soon, two detectives arrive on the scene and the circus begins. Because you know or have seen or heard of cases like this on TV. After Amy's parents arrive, and the cops close in, secrets are revealed, and the tension builds as we, along with Nick, and everyone else, are marched forward to a dramatic precipice. The 24/7 climate of today's news and Internet culture takes cases like this and spins it out of control. There are TV pundits out there who would advocate for the missing wife, missing girl or boy, missing teenager, and have their picture on TV all the time, every night with guests who completely agree with her, prosecuting a case before an arrest is even made. This is an important factor in real life and Gillian Flynn incorporates it deftly into her book. Personally, I found it a bit distracting, but it does add to the characters' tension a bit, and in a way it provides a conduit of expression. Both Nick and Amy express themselves through how others perceive, so this is an important aspect of their personality.

I cannot give up any more of the plot and its twists and turns. It is very tense, and engaging. Is this a literary novel? Of course it's not. If you wanted a literary novel, you'd be reading "Crime and Punishment". I also would not recommend this book for anyone under age 21. Although it not a grisly novel, with blood and guts, and only mostly has a lot of language, it is very psychologically intense with a very mature subject. A well explored subject, but one that if someone who has not experienced certain aspects of life or is not familiar with them, would not be able to grasp what the book is saying. You can't ask a 16 year old girl to understand the give and take of marriage. Maybe she knows what goes on in a relationship at her age, but what makes a real, live, marriage work? The good and the bad? No. I am not saying a non-married person, a single person would not get this novel... Of course they would. But it gets some seasoning in life to really get it. A teenager would be completely lost in this book in my opinion.

And what about the sociopath, the psychopath? Who is the greatest among us? Is it the one who chooses to stay in an Epic Failure of a Marriage, an Epic Disaster of a Life, or the one that endures it all? Is this person a Hero instead? Does the book answer that question to your satisfaction? To me, it gives a voice to few things and makes me ponder some others in my own life. In other words, what else do you want from a great piece of fiction?

And easy 4.5 out 5 stars.

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