Sunday, October 5, 2014

Neat Book Review #19 Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

gone girl book cover
Plot summary
Gone Girl  is the story of two married writers, Nick and Amy, who got fired and moved from New York City to the sticks in Missouri. Amy is not happy with the curve ball that life has thrown her and neither is Nick, but nobody could have imagined that things were bad enough to lead to murder - until Amy disappears. Turning quickly from sympathetic husband to murder suspect, the besieged Nick tries to find a way out of a murder charge because, as he insists, he is completely innocent. Meanwhile, Amy's diary tells a completely different story, the story of an abused and frightened woman. The question that the reader is faced with is this: Who is lying here? The husband, the wife, or someone else? The answer to that question is the key to this murder mystery and it is quite a surprise.

My opinion:
Gone Girl is first of all a psychological thriller/murder mystery and a very good and satisfying one too. However, it is much more than that. It is a contemporary story that deals in an insightful way with a very old theme: the possibility of man and woman living with each other. Flynn's commentary about life after postmodernism in America, expressed in subtle manner both in the plot and the words of the characters themselves was, in my mind, no less thought-provoking and satisfying than the story itself.

Pros:  This is a fast-paced yet sophisticated psychological murder mystery/thriller. It kind of reminded me of an Agatha Christie mystery, except that here there is no unique detective persona, rather the two characters, who tell their story alternately throughout the book, are dominant.

Cons: The story is told alternately through Amy's diary and Nick himself, so there is no storyteller in the traditional sense of the word. This makes it very hard to rely on any of the characters and to know what exactly is going on here and what the truth is. That is kind of the point of the story, but if you are not a fan of this style then you might wish to avoid this one. Also, about half-way through the book I became really scared that the writer would leave us with a standard, postmodern inconclusive end (a crime that should be punishable by death,by the way), but luckily she avoids this type of dishonesty and delivers what to me was a very surprising and satisfying end. I'm still kind of shocked by the conclusion, but it makes excellent sense from a psychological point of view.

Who should read it: Anyone who loves a good murder mystery/psychological thriller. This book really plays with your mind, so if you like that sort of thing, you'll enjoy this story.

Bottom line: A polyphonic, very satisfying murder mystery that can be read and understood on different levels.

Excerpt: I'm not telling you who says this, when, and why so as not to spoil anything, but to me this is one of the best passages in the book. I'm still thinking about it:

The  bankruptcy  matched  my  psyche  perfectly.  For  several  years,  I  had  been  bored.  Not  a  whining,  restless  child’s boredom (although I was not above that) but a dense, blanketing malaise. It seemed to me that there was nothing new to be discovered  ever  again.  Our  society  was  utterly,  ruinously  derivative  (although  the  word derivative  as  a  criticism  is  itself derivative). We were the first human beings who would never see anything for the first time. We stare at the wonders of the world,  dull-eyed,  underwhelmed.  Mona  Lisa,  the  Pyramids,  the  Empire  State  Building.  Jungle  animals  on  attack,  ancient icebergs collapsing, volcanoes erupting.

I can’t recall a single amazing thing I have seen firsthand that I didn’t immediately reference to a movie or TV show. A fucking commercial. You know the awful singsong of the blasé:  Seeeen it. I’ve literally seen it all, and the worst thing, the thing that makes me want to blow my brains out, is: The secondhand experience is always better. The image is crisper, the view is keener, the camera angle and the soundtrack manipulate my emotions in a way reality can’t anymore.

I don’t know that we are actually human at this point, those of us who are like most of us, who grew up with TV and movies and now the Internet. If we are betrayed, we know the words to say; when a loved one dies, we know the words to say. If we want to play the stud or the smart-ass or the fool, we know the words to say. We are all working from the same dog-eared script.
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.

And if all of us are play-acting, there can be no such thing as a soul mate, because we don’t have genuine souls. It had gotten to the point where it seemed like nothing matters, because I’m not a real person and neither is anyone else. I would have done anything to feel real again.

You may also be interested in:

Neat Book Review #13 Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John Le Carré

Neat Book Review #2: The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch

About the author
Joab Cohen is the author of the psychological thriller The Jewminator and
the vegan action hero novel Captain Tofu and the Green Team (coming soon!)

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