Gone (but not forgotten) Girl

41m0gO52GwL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_As I write this review, Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn (audiobook version read by Julia Whelan and Kirby Heyborne, Random House Audio, 2012) sits at or near the top of the New York Times Hardcover Fiction bestseller list. You can’t, as they say, argue with success. So, I won’t. I’ll just offer a few observations. I can’t actually get into much of the plot without immediately issuing a spoiler alert. That’s because Gone Girl is all about the plot, in more ways than one. The characters really have no dimension to them, perhaps by design, and none of them are sympathetic characters. (Well, maybe one, which I’ll get to.)

There are any number of stock characters, such as the Nancy Grace-like TV talk show personality with a taste for the sensational and the bottom-feeding lawyer who specializes in defending the world’s O. J. Simpson wannabes. Lots of other shallow, self-absorbed types, including the parents of one of the main characters and the mistress of another (a student-teacher thing . . . Geez!).

I think I can reveal this much of the plot:  Nick and Amy Dunne have been married for five years. On their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick gets a call at the bar that he runs with his sister Margo. It is his neighbor calling to report that the front door of Nick’s house has been left wide open for a significant period of time and the neighbor is suspicious. Nick returns home to find signs of a struggle and his wife not at home, where, being jobless, she usually spends her time. It soon becomes clear that she has gone missing. Has she been kidnapped? Fled into hiding to evade an attacker? Dead? And just who might be involved? Hmmm. (Please envision me stroking my stubbled chin between thumb and fingers, eyes narrowed, perhaps one eyebrow slightly raised. Ignore that yawn a few seconds later.)

(Also concerning the plot, Gone Girl may be the only mystery I’ve ever read that features both refrigerated vomit and refrigerated sperm — in the same refrigerator. If that isn’t enough to make you listen to this book, well, then, I don’t know what would be. Maybe nothing.)

"I swear, Your Honor, those really are dairy products in my refrigerator."

“I swear, Your Honor, those really are dairy products in my refrigerator.”

All of this is reported in a first person narrative by Nick. His narrative alternates with Amy’s, which is in the form of a diary or journal. (One of these days I’ll have to investigate just what the difference is between those two. Is it that, especially for females, once you reach the age of eighteen your diary just becomes a journal?) Anyway, I think what would really have been interesting would have been for these two narratives to have turned out to have been delivered by the same person. In terms of the characters’ respective personalities, they night as well have been. But this already might be giving too much away. And it’s Flynn’s book, after all, not mine.

Can I say that these narrators (I’m talking about the characters’ voices now, not the voice talents performing the reading, who do a competent, if not compelling, rendition) are unreliable? And here’s the thing about unreliable narrators. In the hands of some inferior writers, the technique relies on the naivete or maybe the trust of readers to make it easier to spring plot twists, surprises, sudden reversals and other less-than-sophisticated plot elements to make the story “interesting.” Of course, the unreliable narrator has a long tradition and some readers must really get a kick out of it. As I said, Gone Girl tops the bestseller list.

I can’t really account for its popularity in any other way. Any given episode of the first season of “Homeland” is far superior to Gone Girl. So my advice would be to pass on this book and settle in for a binge-viewing session with the Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin.

And, oh yeah, the one quasi-sympathetic character of the book is Nick’s sister Margo, whom Nick refers to as Go. A diminuitive, no doubt. But I also read it as an imperative, as in “get the fuck away from these people and this situation as fast as possible.” In other words, become another gone girl, in a good way.

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