Gone Girl (Guest Post!)

[Topper’s Notes: Hi! This is a guest post by my very good friend who writes The Straight and Uneven, a blog about life, poetry, opinions, and so much more.  She’s one of the coolest, most thoughtful people I know – and she put this together so fast I didn’t even have time to promote it!  I am so excited to share her book review with y’all!]

by: Gillian Flynn

Hello Topper’s Books readers! I’m very happy to be here as a guest on my lovely friend’s blog. Today I’m going to present you with my thoughts on Gone Girl, the incredibly hyped mystery novel by Gillian Flynn. Unfortunately, there are many spoilers ahead so read at your own risk!  [Topper’s Notes: The spoilers do not reveal big twists or the ending, but they do contain plot details that may spoil some of the suspense during the novel.]

For a reader of contemporary fiction, Gone Girl seems very enticing-trendy, yet intelligent, with its non-flashy but none too alienating cover art.  A modern-day mystery about a smart, modern woman.

Oh, Gone Girl, you misled my naive perspective on the New York Times bestseller list. Serves me right.  Let me start by letting you know that I subconsciously started reading the book with the mindset that it would be similar to my experience with Tana French’s suspenseful, crafty In the Woods, a murder mystery I highly recommend. (Ironically, I just saw that Tana French herself has given this book a great review.) Even though Gone Girl lured me with its own charm, I couldn’t erase that perspective.

I enjoyed the descriptions at the beginning, with Nick, one of the two main characters, describing his wife according to the shape of her head, and Amy (his wife) asking if she should “remove her soul” before coming inside their new suburban dwelling-but Flynn cut right to the chase too quickly for me. The move to said new dwelling is meant to be taken as a bad omen, a sign of the cracks in Nick and Amy’s relationship. For me, character development is key, and though the flashbacks to Nick and Amy’s early days, when they first met, are fun, they’re not that important because we already know they’re in trouble from page 2.

It turns out that Amy is psychologically damaged from the fictional creation of her parents (who are, incidentally, psychologists), Amazing Amy. Constantly living in the shadow of a little girl in a children’s book takes a toll on her, no matter how self-aware she and her parents are. Conveniently, her husband is psychologically damaged from his father’s bad relationships with women. Put these two together and what do you get? A Scott Petersen media storm.

That being said, I enjoyed many of the other characters – Nick’s feminist sister is interesting, though she only really plays the role of a bystander, as well as Detective Rhonda Boney, who constantly irks Nick by suggesting he’s the baby of his family. The suspense surrounding Amy’s disappearance was also great, until it just fizzled out. Once we reach the climax, there are just too many characters that appear too conveniently to be believable. Too many extra plot twists, small and large, pop out like weird jungle vines. Oh wait, there’s an ex-lover of Amy’s still available for whatever anyone wants with him! Oh, you didn’t think Nick was a bad husband, check out his young fling and weird temper tantrums! Yes, I realize this may happen in a Scott Petersen or Natalie Holloway media storm, but I just couldn’t get on board.

The resolution of all of these jungle vines didn’t satisfy me. I think Flynn should have chosen one or two good twists and stuck with them. If, at every turn, no one is who they seem, things stop being interesting. The actual mystery of Amy’s disappearance is appropriately strange and disturbing, in a way you’re not meant to expect. When it begins to wrap up, the dialogue and the plot becomes tired. You don’t see enough of how or why Nick and Amy’s relationship is poisonous, you just see the evidence of it, and their separate character flaws. In the end, I got the feeling that I was supposed to feel shocked and disturbed, and like I went through something deep and traumatic. Nick and Amy both get what they supposedly deserve, but it’s hardly satisfying or eerie-not calculating enough for a character like Amy and her Amazing counterpart.



Mystery · Western

The Ballad of Frankie Silver

The Ballad of Frankie Silver by: Sharyn McCrumb

My cousin gave me The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter years ago and I lost it before I read it – but I found this book by the same author, picked it up and finally got around to reading it. This isn’t normally a book I would read – it’s almost Western style, and is heavily influenced by American folklore. These aren’t bad things, but they’re just not attention grabbers for me. (Louis L’Amour was the extent of my foray into Westerns.)

But I finally did read it – and I absolutely loved it. It was part mystery (not action mystery, mind you), part folktale, part historical, and pulled together with an overarching theme of social inequality. If you like any of those things you should read this book. I loved it best for her observations on social justice – a lot was said about socioeconomic status that I think in America often gets ignored because of the correlation/focus on racial inequality. Plus, the way it was presented was thought-provoking but not head-bashing. Rather, it was highlighted by character’s occasional observations and thoughts as opposed to author reflection. This made it an integral part of the story and much easier to internalize and think about – the point of the book was to tell a story and so I was much more accepting of what came along with that. I’m not terribly fond of books where the point is to bash something into the reader and the story is there as frill work. (Fiction, that is. Nonfiction is a whole ‘nother creature.)

A part of the story takes place in the 1800s, and it was a bit hard to switch between the two times – perhaps not the smoothest transitions. Reading those parts was also a bit like watching Mad Men – some of the attitudes (especially towards women) will make you glad it’s 2012. But I like how she used the past to draw correlations with the current plot line – and how well it’s tied into the story at the end. It’s perhaps a tiny bit contrived, but one can easily overlook that.

It’s a bit depressing but I love books that can do depressing well and I think this one succeeds. Anyway, I really enjoyed this book and I really loved thinking about the issues raised within it. I am definitely going to be looking for a copy of The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter – sorry it took so long, Kara, but great recommendation!