It's finally time to talk about Gone Girl. Did you love it? Did you hate it? Did it make you reassess your relationship/media crime coverage/moving to Missouri? Did it make you reassess whether you really want to plan that scavenger hunt for your three year anniversary/check out what your significant other is hiding in the back of the freezer? (Hopefully not barf.)
(OBVIOUS WARNING: THERE ARE SPOILERS AHEAD. If you haven't read the book and don't want to know what happens, do not read further!)
Our staff was divided on Gone Girl; some loved it, some hated it, some felt conflicted.
I couldn't put Gone Girl down — I literally read it in one sitting, while on a train. But the second after I finished it, I felt ripped off. The setup was promising: a thriller told by unreliable narrators who both had potentially deadly secrets and neuroses that they wanted to hide from the reader. I also saw Nick and Amy's story as a metaphor for all (less dramatic and deadly) relationships; put very simply, there are always two sides to the demise of a marriage. But I thought that both that conceit and the mystery itself fell flat as soon as we learned, via the twist halfway through the book, that Amy was a psychopath and Nick was a really good guy. (Sure, he cheated, but who wouldn't want to cheat on Amy? Sure, he hated his dad, but who wouldn't hate his dad? Etc.) By the end, I was pretty bored, because both Nick and Amy became stock characters and I didn't understand either person's motivation; for example, I didn't think Nick was smart enough to trick Amy into loving him again that easily. She was too smart to fall for that! Also, to be honest, I didn't think the book was well written, which is fine — I can enjoy a thriller without beautiful prose — but I was expecting more thanks to all the glowing reviews I read. I have way more to say, but I'll save that for the discussion.
Here are Dodai's thoughts:
"I thought it was really well written, suspenseful, a page-turner, but it's definitely an icky feeling to gradually realize both of the narrators are completely unreliable, and unlikeable. I felt conned. Knowing the narrators were lying got me annoyed. It was absorbing, but I don't think I enjoyed it. That said, it's an interesting twist to have a tiny blonde woman as the monster and not the victim; it reminded me of something I read Joss Whedon say about creating Buffy the Vampire Slayer: He started out with 'just the idea of some woman who seems to be completely insignificant who turns out to be extraordinary' and wanted to flip the Hollywood formula of 'the little blonde girl who goes into a dark alley and gets killed in every horror movie.' Even as Nick loathes her he tugs her hair, it seems like her delicate blondeness is still irresistible somehow."
Erin said: "The book's first half was excellent, but it started coming unraveled after the second part started. I love the idea of two awful people manipulating and trapping each other as a satirical horror-metaphor for marriage, but I don't love that it just turned out that Amy was both totally crazy and Nick was totally helpless." Jessica added, "I loved being inside Amy's head; a complete psychopath's thought process makes for a compelling read."
A few discussion questions to get you guys started:
- Amy is more obviously the extreme psychopath in the story, but doesn't Nick exhibit some psycho traits as well? For example: he eventually decides that he needs Amy in his life — no other woman could fufill his needs — even though she blackmailed him by stealing his sperm. (Among various other devious actions.) Did you find his epiphany believable?
- Did Nick deserve the way Amy treated him? Either because of his failings re: their marriage, or because, as stated above, they had a fucked up symbiotic relationship going on?
- What did you think about Amy's fixation with being a "cool girl"? Was that sufficient motivation for her actions? Do women really care about being the "cool girl" into their late 30s? Do sociopaths care about being the "cool girl" ever?
- Let's talk about the supporting characters: Mo, Desi, Andi, Amy's parents. Janet Maslin said in her NYT review that the characters were "so well imagined that they're hard to part with," but I often felt like they just existed to fill up gaps in the plot. (I liked Amy's relationship with her self-absorbed parents and the consistent "Amazing Amy" multiple choice thread, but found the rest of the supporting characters pretty flimsy and insufferable.)
- Most of us on staff felt that the first half was vastly superior to the second. Do you think the book would've been more successful if Flynn saved the twist for later on in the story?
- Thoughts on Reese Witherspoon playing Amy in the movie version? (SERIOUS question.)