Gone Girl? More like gone are the three days I wasted reading this terrible book.
Gone Girl has been everywhere this year; it’s ominous black and red color eyeing me from bookstore windows, appearing on magazine bestseller lists, and invading my email inbox via Amazon, Powells, and Abebooks… but for a long time, I resisted reading it. Crime fiction has never been particularly compelling to me, and I’m currently anxious to continuing crossing books off my “classics to read” list.
Upon hearing that Ben Affleck was directing and starring in the movie version, however, I finally caved and bought the damn book.
Essentially, I hated it.
It’s unusual for me to vehemently dislike a book. Especially a book that the New York Times and the Huffington Post (to name a few) have identified as one of the best books of the year, and that the New Yorker described as “absorbing” and “masterly.”
So it’s possible that I’m missing something here. But for what it’s worth, I would put this on a list titled: “Shitty Book That Everyone Is Reading.” (Right next to Fifty Shades of Grey.)
Quick plot intro:
Nick and Amy Dunne have been married for five years. Outwardly, they are two beautiful, successful, smart people. Behind closed doors, their marriage has been strained following layoffs, relocation, and parental illness. On their fifth wedding anniversary, things take a turn for the horrifying when Amy disappears from her home, and the police begin to suspect foul play. The nation gets swept up in the story (Casey Anthony style) and Nick, while claiming innocence, looks increasingly suspicious. But could he really be guilty of homicide?
Implicit answer: The only way to find out is to buy this book! Only $10 in paperback!
Thanks to this mosquito-bite of a summary, Gone Girl became a New York Times Best Seller because everyone is itching to find out (ha): What happened to Amy?!
Let me assure you, you don’t need to know.
Why? Because during the revelation process, you will encounter the following:
- Poor characterization. Even after 400 pages of first-person narration that alternated between Nick and Amy, I could not understand, connect with, or empathize with either of them. Their personality traits changed from chapter to chapter, conflicting and rearranging so that by the end of the book I still found myself asking: “Who are these people?”
- Predictable plot. For a book that’s supposed to be “shocking” and “wickedly-clever” and “irresistible,” I found it surprisingly easy to anticipate what was coming next. This was no Michael Connelly plot, with surprising twists and brilliant sleuthing by lawyers and law enforcement. It slowly, painfully, unfolds and continues to disappoint.
- Ultimate shallowness. This book is full of one-dimensional characters living shallow, uninteresting lives. Nick and Amy aren’t vulnerable; their struggles aren’t inspiring. And because the reader is stuck inside these dreary minds throughout the novel, the rest of the characters appear equally flat. I spent the whole novel searching for depth and came up empty-handed.
(Note: I read Gone Girl right after Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which had some of the most well-developed, sympathetic characters I have ever encountered. So it’s possible that my expectations regarding depth of meaning were temporarily heightened. But still.)
My advice: Don’t waste your time. If you still feel an intense need to know what happened to Amy, wait for Ben Affleck to revive her in theaters this fall. At least there will be popcorn.