Friday, October 12, 2012

Gone Girl

Recently, my number came up on the wait list for this book at the library! Score! I checked out an electronic copy and just finished reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

I decided to request this book in the first place because I read a few different pieces of critical acclaim for it in the media. As will be true with this little review also, critics of this book tend to give very few details because the book is totally plot-driven and is intended to be suspenseful. I'm not going to ruin the experience for those of you who might be interested in reading it. But, I'll have to say I can't recommend this book.

Let's start with the good: the writing is clear and describes events and places in an interesting way. The book is set in a fictional town just north of Hannibal, Missouri. My parents are both from St. Louis and during our yearly trips to visit, we always drove through this part of the state. I thought her descriptions of the landscape and the demographics were spot on and really enjoyed imagining this story taking place there. The format of the book was also very cool, with chapters alternating between narrators. The chapters also shift among different points in time: at the beginning, the husband narrates the moments after he discovers his wife is missing, which is mixed together with excerpts from the wife's diary spanning the entirety of their relationship. I'm impressed that the author chose to use this style and I think this helped the story move along at a good pace.

The bad? Well, while the book is constructed to be a page-turner, I had difficulty getting engaged with the story because I HATED both of the main characters so much! ARGH! There were times when I tried to determine which one I hated more, but I really couldn't. They were equivalently unsympathetic. The relationship of the husband and wife with one another is ugly from the beginning, and I felt like it just got uglier the more I read. Not being married, I suppose I don't know how accurately this portrays marriage, but it was certainly not an advertisement! I wouldn't say I was looking for Chick Lit when I picked up this book, but I didn't relate to either of the main characters at all. I felt alternately sorry for them and disgusted by them.

I had also heard this book characterized as a "mystery" before I read it, and I think that description was a little bit unfair. While there are certainly elements that are unknown at the beginning and discovered by the end, this book didn't have much in common with other mysteries. Usually, a mystery story is told from the perspective of the person attempting to solve the mystery, usually a police officer, an FBI agent, or a particularly intrepid lawyer (in those Grisham books I always seem to have lying around). This person is seeking out information, synthesizing it, and then moving forward. In this book, the police officers were sort of peripheral characters. To the extent either of the spouses were attempting to discover more, their efforts to do so weren't intelligent or creative, like you would probably expect from a mystery. I would say this book is more about planning a conspiracy than it is about solving a mystery. While a story about laying a trap can be fascinating - like Ocean's 11 for example - it seems to me that it works best when you're rooting for the conspirators to get away with it! For me, that didn't happen here. For these reasons, I just can't recommend this book.

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