16 August 2013

Gillian Flynn: Gone Girl (2012)

Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl isn't normally the kind of book I read, although reviews of it intrigued me to such an extent that I felt obliged to do so. I wasn't disappointed.

Thirtysomething Brooklyn couple Nick Dunne and his wife Amy, due to the ever-powerful internet and the recession, have lost their jobs as writers for traditional hard copy publications. Nick's mother is dying so they move to his native New Carthage, Missouri, into a rented McMansion. The story begins with the strange disappearance of Amy on their fifth wedding anniversary. It is told throughout by one section from Nick followed (in the first half) by a shorter section from Amy's diary, whereas in the second half Nick and the 'real' Amy (explanation below) speak. The problem is that they are both (to very varying degrees) unreliable narrators and the reader is very unclear about what has actually happened until the beginning of the second half.

From the the first paragraph the reader suspects there's something odd about Nick because he begins by talking about Amy's head, mentioning the word 'skull', and certainly the police suspect him of foul play. The suspicions grow, although some of the sympathy the reader may have developed for Nick begins to disappear when he suddenly reveals he has a lover. But it's almost all downhill in the first half for Nick in any case: the upturned ottoman in their house looks like an attempt at faked kidnapping, a lot of blood has been wiped from the kitchen floor, he has taken out death insurance on her, etc. By the end of the Part One, though, Nick learns that this is all part of a highly elaborate plan to frame him for her murder. And she's still making a very good job of it.

So Amy is indeed alive, and in the second half the 'real' Amy tells us that her diary was a pack of lies which she has left as written 'evidence' for the police to find and add to the incriminating 'evidence' rapidly building around Nick: as her husband now realises, he is being punished (with the possible threat of death sentence in Missouri) for his infidelity.

And as Nick will soon learn from other men that Amy has falsely incriminated in the past, she doesn't like men to give their attentions to other women: she's a highly dangerous psychopath.* After she has fled to a crumby cabin in the Ozarks and been robbed of her remaining money, in desperation she takes refuge in the mansion belonging to the creepy stalker Dezi, whom she briefly knew twenty years before and who continues to be obsessed with her. And then she watches Nick emoting on television, believes he's changed and therefore wants him back, but how can she return without anyone discovering she's framed him? Oh yeah, have sex with Dezi, drug him, stab him to death, then go back and tell the cops she's been abducted and raped. Simple.

Well, the cops seem to think so, and (with a notable but in the end irrelevant exception) they accept her story and Amy the murderer is free to return to her husband. Just like that: the frame-up is forgotten, the mysterious appearance of her purse in Hannibal isn't investigated, and nor is the murdered man's body (for drugs). As for Nick, well, he is sufficiently crazy/masochistic/foolhardy that he'll have to live the rest of his life in fear that his crazy wife may murder him. Besides, how can he not live with her – she's having his baby? Well, the reader has already learned that there are a number of unbelievable, even cartoonish, things in this novel anyway (take Nick's lawyer and his wife, for instance) that disbelief shouldn't be too difficult to suspend.

Through all this, there are what appear to be some very serious points being made about the nature of technology in the modern world: the dumbing-down and stage-management of the truth by television; the distortion of justice by online social networks; and the warping of reality by the cinema. Existential confusion rules, but that of course should in no way exculpate Amy.

This has a very leaky plot, but is highly readable for all that.
*Rather oddly, Gillian Flynn has stated that she doesn't write about 'psycho bitches', and yet this is very much how Amy – in spite of her many likable characteristics – comes across to me.

My other Flynn post is below:

Gillian Flynn: Sharp Objects (2006)

1 comment:

Amit Agarwal said...

This is a devastating thriller which shows what a talented writer can do at the height of her creative power.This book literally throbs with a raw power which drives the narrative at full throttle till the end .Probably Dan Brown can learn a thing or two from this brilliant writer as to how to write a thriller which would embody all the qualities of a classic.After so many years I have come across a book which I unabashedly would recommend for those who wonder why there is a dearth of great writers writing thrillers.This writers earlier book has won the Edgar Award and since I am one of those who admire my agatha christie and conan doyle, Edgar allan poe and Edgar Wallace as well as the good old G K chesterton i was looking for something which would be a page turner but could remind me of literary style of the great writers of crime fiction of the golden era and this writer has greatly justified the faith i reposed in her .I am really surprised to see some reviewers criticizing her style .well she is writing from the perspectives of a working class American couple who have lost their job because of the Meltdown of 2008 .Do you expect them to talk in latin or a la Poirot in French .I bought the first edition[hardcover]which Flipkart was the first to offer and i treat this book as an honorable addition to my collection of crime fiction.If you love crime fiction do read this book .This book is my best crime fiction read of this year. I have made it point to read the other two novels written by Ms.Flynn.Great ,a writer in full command of this genre ,a writer to watch out for.