Dan Sandman

31: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

In Books, Crime, Fiction on 02/08/2013 at 12:00 pm

Gone Girl by Gillian FlynnThis book is disposable entertainment: trashy and fun. The story progresses, the pages turn and you want to know what happens at the end. There is little need for concentration, as the soap-opera characters struggle with their two-dimensional world-views. The writing is meticulously planned, constantly revealing the writer’s carefully orchestrated puppetry; the plot is completely contrived as though it has been written purely to shock; the portrayal of American society is shallow, over-simplified and forgettable. This book doesn’t teach you anything and will not change the way you think, but you’ll want to read the story through until the end. It’s addictive, like the throwaway TV chat shows it attempts to satirise or like bad pop music played in a supermarket.

As any gossip magazine journalist will tell you, resentment sells. Building on reader’s prejudices, fears and imperfections will create something readable to place in the dentist’s waiting room. As Nick and Amy tell their ‘two sides’ to the story we are thrown into a sexist world divided along gender lines. Old men suffering from Alzheimer’s are frowned upon with scorn whilst pregnant woman with families are treated with contempt. Police officers are portrayed as incompetent and susceptible to manipulation. Humanity is portrayed as immoral, corrupt and mentally ill to an extreme. The focus of this book is entirely negative: all positive feelings become dark and twisted.

But Gone Girl is amusing. Indeed, it’s antagonistic treatment of sensitive topics is enjoyable. If you don’t mind going on a thrill ride at the fairground and feeling slightly sick afterwards, this book will be just your cup of tea. And the plot is very cleverly laid out in a way that will keep you bewildered until the very end. It doesn’t have the compassionate understanding of a good contemporary novel, nor the fantastical sophistication of a good graphic novel. However, the first person narratives are bright, lively and engaging in their own disturbed ways.

I remember, when I was growing up, watching a British soap-opera called Eastenders three times per week plus two week-daily Australian soaps called Neighbours and Home and Away. In total, I must have spent approximately 5.7 hours per week / 296 hours per year watching soaps. Reading Gone Girl for seven days is the book equivalent of watching 5.7 hours of soaps for said period. Both feel like they’ve been written by a focus group and designed to sell.

Average at best.

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