Hype, it’s a problematic beast. It is the reason I still haven’t read Slumdog Millionaire, concerned it won’t live up to my expectations. I would argue that only 10% of the time I am likely to enjoy a book everyone is raving about; unless of course I read it prior to, or without knowledge of, the hype, then the odds go up in favour of enjoyment.
On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media–as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents–the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter–but is he really a killer?
I had been debating whether to read Gone Girl for a while and having now completed it I think I would have rather someone just told me what happened.
It’s not that Gone Girl is badly written, it’s quite beautifully and masterfully formed. In fact, it was not the plot – clever while guessable – that was the cause of aggravation, but the characters. I felt in trying to step away from clichés and stereotypes, the novel unintentionally conformed to the patriarchal ideals of gender depictions.
If you’ve not read the book and still want to read it, do not continue.
Until the halfway mark, where what we are all expecting becomes a reality, I was storming my way through the novel. However, once Sociopath Amy was revealed I became bored; it wasn’t till Amy returned to Nick that it recapture my interest.
On the one hand I did enjoy that Amy was the sociopath (her planning structure and patience were frightening) after all, women have as much potential to be evil as men. However, in making Amy a sociopath I felt Gone Girl depicted the bunny boiler trope – a ‘beware who you marry, men’ cautionary tale – as opposed to a positive message highlighting a problematic image of women. In Flynn’s defense I do not believe this to be intentional, as she does go out of her way to discuss ridiculous male ideals of women. Amy’s quick assessment of what the men around her wanted from a her in a relationship, which was invariably to be a submissive and obedient, and ability to adapt was both clever and realistic.
In having Amy devoid of any empathy I didn’t see how it addressed or called out these tropes; the only reason Amy isn’t like other girls is because she is a sociopath, and we can’t sympathise with a killer sociopath, can we? I felt invited to sympathise with Nick, the guy who cheated on his wife, who was too scared to leave her, who lied to the police throughout their investigation. Everything in this story revolves around Nick; although he clearly doesn’t win, he at no point takes responsibility for his own part in the series of events. I suppose it could be suggested that – in not pitying Nick and agreeing with his eventual imprisonment with Amy – that Flynn punishes them both with a lifetime with each other. However, Amy is still the villain, the psychopath with her toy, and it’s not an idea I can get behind. I think, had Amy knowledge of her own ability to damage, it would be a level playing field where I could despair of them equally.
Perhaps I am being too critical, I don’t know, either way I finished Gone Girl disappointed.