Tone curl

This is my review of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

"Everyone knows it's always the husband": Nick is the obvious main suspect when his wife Amy disappears on their fifth wedding anniversary. Yet what kind of a mixed-up mess is she, after a lifetime of providing the model for her parents' money-spinning set of stories about "Amazing Amy", a modern Pollyanna designed to entrance both children and parents?

Gifted with a rampant imagination, Gillian Flynn has devised an intriguing situation with a labrynthine plot which hooked me because I sensed both that what I was being led to believe was false and that what I thought I was being clever in anticipating would prove a red herring as well. I like the gradual revelation of events in which truth and lies are hard to disentangle, the shifting relationships between the main characters, some sharp script-writerly dialogue, moments of real comedy in what seems to be mainly a black farce, and the continual parodying of the media-driven, hokey, faddish side of American culture. I liked it less when I started to suspect that the author herself might be too much part of this so that some of these parodies were imagined on my part.

Too often, the style lapses into a cheap magaziny tone, abetted by the author's love of creating adjectives ending in "y". I became irritated when the spate of quirky wit and imagination sank into slapdash banality. Are the false notes of trashiness unintentional or part of a plan to lure readers along with just enough but not too much violence and soft porn?

Although the commonly used device of alternating chapters between first person Nick and Amy works well, they both indulge in too much "telling" of their self-knowledge. Then, there is the continual underlying voice of the same caustic-tongued yet also often tweely sentimental female – incongruous for Nick in the midst of all his macho lingo and activities culled by the author from an obliging husband. I learned the latter in the acknowledgements at the end, which I mistook at first for Amy's play-acting of what an author's falsely modest, saccharine sign-off should be.

The nature of the final twist seems quite apt to me, but I was disappointed by its execution. I agree with reviewers who have found the final chapters too rushed and weakly developed – including some major flaws on the plausibility front.

Overall, I can see why this is a best-seller, probably one in a run of many. It is a page turner, good distraction for an economy airline flight, and a trigger for lively discussion at a book group if this does not cause an irrevocable rupture between the pulp fiction addicts and blue stocking readers, but with a little more care over style it could have been brilliant.

⭐⭐⭐ 3 Stars

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