Thursday, October 18, 2012

Dark Hearts

Book Reviewed: Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

This summer, Gone Girl was THE book to read.  Every website, newspaper, and book critic threw praise at Flynn's domestic mystery novel, making it impossible to escape.  After hearing a lot of people I trust tell me it was worth the praise, I finally started it in August.  And just finished it yesterday.  I know.  School got in the way, as did work and book club and a million other things.  But the real reason I didn't finish Gone Girl was because I kind of didn't want it to end.  I wanted to just stay inside it for as long as I could while never actually committing to the bizarre plot twist it took halfway through.

It's hard to talk about Gone Girl without giving anything away, so this might be a short review.  It's a great book: dark and mean and incredibly involving.  Flynn hooks you right away with her charming (bordering on lulling at times) writing style and two characters who are full and complex but also feel like people you've known your whole life.  Nick Dunne and his wife, Amy, seem like a couple I might consider friends, but as things in their lives unravel and their true sides show, they become the last people in the world you'd want to actually know.  The book's first half revolves around Amy's disappearance on the Dunnes' fifth anniversary.  Each chapter is told from either Nick's perspective from the day of the disappearance onward or from Amy's perspective through a diary that begins with the day she met Nick seven years earlier.  Then the book takes a dark little turn halfway through and goes to a place I was not expecting at all.  I am not easily fooled by narratives.  I've been reading books and watching TV for far too long not to see endings coming from a mile away.  But I was not expecting anything that happens in the last 200 pages or so of Gone Girl.  Not even a little bit. 

Gone Girl is not a comforting read, although I found Flynn's casual but tight style to be quite wonderful and involving.  I do recommend it, though, if only for the roller coaster ride that is the plot.  I also think Nick Dunne might be my favorite character I've encountered in literature in months.  He is so similar to the actual Midwestern men I've known my entire life that I felt all his strengths and weaknesses (of which there are many) right in my gut.  In fact, this book makes an interesting litmus test for how a reader might feel about the East Coast versus the Midwest.  In the first 200 pages, who do you find more interesting: Amy or Nick?  Answering that question eventually becomes problematic, but at first, I thought Flynn was creating one of the best books about regional perspectives that I've ever read.  There's a lot going on in this book, and the idea of where we come from - place, family, past experiences - is maybe the most important trait of the entire story.

So if you have a chance to read Gone Girl, please do.  And if you can avoid spoilers beforehand, please do.  This story is best told fresh and without any expectations, so that you can't be disappointed.  I can't say I loved this book completely (as I said, the weird twist almost got too weird for me), but I'd go out on a limb and say it's the most fascinating book I've read all year.  There's no way this one's not making my Top Ten list for 2012. 

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