Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl? More like gone are the three days I wasted reading this terrible book.

gone girl
Publisher: Crown June 5, 2012 ISBN: 978-0297859383

Rating: 

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.

Does he look like someone who would star in a bad movie? (Oh wait... Gigli...)
Does he look like someone who would star in a bad movie?

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.
My advice to crime fiction lovers: stick with these.
My advice to crime fiction enthusiasts: stick with these.
  • 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.)

Read this instead!
Read this instead!

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.

“A Book Blog, Liz?” Let Me Explain

Throughout the (almost) twenty-one years I have been able to speak, I have confidently asserted a variety of future plans.

“I’m going to be an artist,” my five-year-old self declared to inquiring adults, proffering pictures of family members with potato bodies, toothpick limbs, and impossibly wide smiles.

Aspiring artist at work
Aspiring artist at work

This was followed by a fifteen year period of “I’m going to be doctor,” which I stubbornly insisted upon despite a variety of red flags (including a very real phobia of puking people).

It was only during my first semester of college as a pre-med student that I recognized my folly, surreptitiously skipping many a chemistry class in order to dedicate my efforts to a required lit seminar: “Shakespeare’s Major Tragedies.”

The moment of recognition went something like this: “Shit. There won’t be any lit classes in med school.”

***

As far back as my memory reaches, books have been an essential part of my existence. Even as an illiterate toddler I carried around piles of books and “read” by reciting the story from memory. (Shout out to my dad for putting in long hours reading through the pile as part of my bedtime ritual.)

Evaluating multiculturalism and postmodernism in Sesame Street
Searching for postmodern themes in Sesame Street

I began reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in first grade and finished the final words of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows the summer before eighth grade (the day it came out, obviously). In the interim, I devoured all varieties of fiction, including the timeless stories of Roald Dahl, the tales of the resourceful feminist Nancy Drew, the blatantly Catholic Chronicles of Narnia, the youth-friendly murder mysteries of Marry Higgins Clark, the obligatory Twilight Saga, and anything and everything by resident boy-expert, Meg Cabot.

With less time to read in high school, I prioritized homework from English class over Calculus and packed as much reading into my summers as possible. One summer I spent an entire month on Jane Eyre and felt hugely accomplished as I crossed out the title on my stained and wrinkled “101 classics to read” list. I then immediately turned to the inviting pink jacket of Tina Fey’s Bossypants to decompress.

Will not be re-reading anytime soon
Will not be re-reading anytime soon

Now an English major at Notre Dame, my love for books has deepened in the company of brilliant professors, visionary authors, and most of all, talented and thoughtful fellow students. I love every minute of it – okay, except for 4am when I’ve already had 5 coffees and I would rather be talking to people, watching reruns of The Office, or sleeping than railing on Kate Chopin’s misogynistic contemporary critics for 10 double-spaced pages.

***

I almost feel physically uncomfortable without a book nearby. I carry books like some people carry miniature purse dogs – a faithful companion for waiting rooms and car rides; a respite from boredom and monotony; a dependable conversation-starter for awkward social moments.

I have a tendency to take my current read to places where I know I’ll never have a chance to open it, like the Starbucks drive-through, my job at Dean Younce Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, and the library cubicle where I’m supposed to be uber-focused on studying for finals. It’s borderline compulsive.

Today's purse dog
Today’s purse dog

Essentially, this blog is an opportunity to reevaluate, revel in, and share my books. With plans to work in the editing and publishing realm of productive society one day, it will be valuable to practice reviewing books. And though I claim only a nominal understanding of this blogging platform and a limited arsenal of life-experience and material as a twenty-year-old college student, I am giddily excited to start nerding out about books on the internet.