Books: Gone Girl

Gone Girl was this month’s selection at the book club at our local library. My reactions as I read were something like this:

  • After the first few chapters: I don’t find this very interesting; if it weren’t for the book club I don’t know if I’d keep reading.
  • About halfway through: It’s gotten interesting, but I feel sullied being inside the minds of these characters.
  • Most of the way through: I have to keep reading just to find out if any kind of justice is done at the end.
  • When I finished: I am glad this is just fiction. I would feel awful for those people and any other lives they affect if they were real.

The various reactions of other readers at the book club discussion this evening were interesting.  One woman simply stopped reading because she didn’t like the foul language. Language like that wasn’t allowed in her home and she wasn’t going to let it fill her mind. Others echoed her distaste for the language but had finished the book anyway.

Most agreed that there were no really likable characters in the book. (Some though Nick’s sister Go was fairly likable, even if she was pretty messed up. I agreed with another woman that Nick’s mother was likable, but she didn’t play a major role in the story.)

One woman said she liked it just for how well it was written. I have to say that it is very skillfully written, deftly trapping the reader in a maze of lies and half-truths so that it’s hard to figure out what really happened and who – if anyone – is telling the truth. It’s certainly a prime example of how people mask their true selves by making themselves appear differently to people around them.

But I have a problem with the idea of getting tangled in their lives and thoughts just for the sake of entertainment. One of the reviews on the back cover calls it “delightfully poisonous.” I don’t find anything delightful about poison.

Another review accurately calls it a “masterful dissection of marital breakdown.” In this it reminds me of the movie The War of the Roses (though the stories are otherwise quite different). I simply can’t see the entertainment value in people destroying one another (and themselves).

No doubt one can take away valuable lessons about the destruction power of deceit, even when it is by failing to tell the truth rather than saying an outright lie. But there are plenty of more wholesome books with similar lessons.

There are obviously plenty of people who enjoy this book, and I can’t say they’re wrong to enjoy it. But unlike some of the other women in the book club, I don’t plan to try Flynn’s other novels.

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