It reminds me of Martin Amis’s The Information, in that it is a really well-made thing, but one which I think probably shouldn’t have been made, and which I’m probably sorry I read, because it’s sick in its heart.
Everything else I can say is a spoiler so I’ll put it below a tab.
1. I think the right way to read the book is that, by the end, nothing has changed for the two protagonists. Their relationship at the end of the book — in which the man is a hateful worm, and the woman a murderer, and they are bound together by hatred, fear, and common lies — is meant to be the same relationship they had in their courtship. Just with everything a little more out in the open. Indeed I think this is what Flynn suggests marriage just, naturally, is. That people, in general, are sick brutes who need to hurt each other in order to gain satisfaction and who can only be kept superficially in line by the threat of being hurt or killed themselves. I don’t actually think this is true and so I don’t like novels which, by virtue of being well-made, make a compelling case that it’s true.
2. Money is important here. The structure of the story is that the couple starts rich. Then for most of the book they’re not rich. Then at the end they’re rich again, which is what enables them to go back to their normal life. Gone Girl suggests that what being rich means is that people pay attention to you, people believe what you say, and also that you might need to leave some broken or dead people behind in order to maintain your position. So Desi Collings is cognate to the Blue Book Boys.
3. The book is lazy in placing a lot of weight on “the psycho woman who claims to have been raped but is making it up.” The problem with misogynistic stereotypes in novels is not just that misogynistic sterotypes are bad — and they are, they are really bad — but that they’re a fundamentally cheap way of constructing characters. They are easy to believe in because we are weak people, driven by heuristics, who believe stereotypes without thinking too hard about them.
The book would have been better if it had let Nick beat up his girlfriend. In other words, if the world of the novel contains women who lie about getting beaten up by men, it ought to contain men who beat women up. And this would be truer to the moral world of the novel, where a woman falsely accusing a man of abuse is both lying and not lying, because all men abuse somebody, whether or not the accuser and the victim happen to be the same person.
And I think it would have helped prohibit the reading — which I can see from online sources is not rare — that Nick is the hero of the story, who readers are supposed to root for. No! Gross! Nick is a sick brute, Amy is a sick brute, all four of their parents are sick brutes, with the possible exception of Nick’s mother, who’s kind of a cipher.
4. It was a bad idea to name a character “Go.” Confusing in dialogue.
5. In connection with the upcoming movie, you can buy T-shirts labeled “Team Nick” or “Team Amy.” That is messed up and wrong.
Read “Gone Girl” and I was just really hoping to like it…there was so much potential at the beginning! It seemed to fall apart as I read past the part when Nick opens the shed and we’re left wondering what has been found in there (as the book then goes to Amy’s side of the story). Then it becomes apparent how crazy Amy is. I kept on reading, hoping that it would get better. I think the author made a few decisions about the writing that just didn’t work out well.
[…] I will try to write spoiler-free, though if you want to read a spoiler-full post that articulates some of what I very much didn’t like about the book, go here. […]
I downloaded the audiobook soon after that dinner we had during which Jay enthused about it…at over 18 hours, it took quite awhile to finish, and I have to say I was antsy and uncomfortable for most of it. Partly because it’s so twisted, as you say, and also because I predicted many of the big reveals before they happened and so the slow-unfurling of the audiobook made the book excruciating, like listening to a slow-motion car crash you can’t turn away from. Re your point #1, I don’t think these two are presented as evidence that marriage itself is Cold War — these two are clearly supposed to be extraordinary in their psychopathy. That said, some of the ways in which their marriage foundered were very ordinary, which was frightening.
But I totally agree with your point #3 — I was surprised that this book was written by a woman, given that it turns so heavily on the tired misogynistic theme of women-who-manipulate-men-through-false-claims-of-rape-or-pregnancy. There was misogyny for sure, Nick’s dad was a blaring example, and there were other hints of it (Greta’s split lip), but it would have been a more compelling story if Amy had had a real instance of assault in her history to balance out or perhaps spark all her lying-about-rape…I agree it’s otherwise far too one-note on this point and it makes Amy too straightforwardly evil and unsympathetic.
Overall, totally disturbing, but like Nick had to acknowledge as Amy’s scheme unfolded, it is brilliantly constructed and I had to admire it.