Friday, April 10, 2015

Gone Girl Takes the Mystery-Thriller Up a Notch

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn was published in June 2012, and I have only just read it. My overall response is she has raised the benchmark for the mystery-thriller genre to a literary level. At its heart, her story examines the inner workings and underpinnings of relationships.

Gone Girl is a dissection of one of the most complex of human relationships--the psychological warfare played out on the battlefield known as marriage. This is a He said-She said story ripe with ironies and lies. Gillian Flynn alternates her dual first-person narration between husband and wife Nick and Amy Dunne. Each point of view is unique and searing--one male, the other female. The delicate balance between the spoken and the unspoken is laid bare in their thoughts. Anyone who was ever in a dysfunctional relationship will hear echoes of their own interior monologue resonate through the words of these characters.

The couple's unapologetic and unrepentant narratives reveal their deep-seated psychological motivations and justifications for their corrosive actions. The primal forces have been transgressed and someone must be punished. But who? While Nick is following the algebra of Amy's thinly disguised wedding anniversary riddles, Amy is dishing out the calculus for his punishment. The reader is left to do the math.

Gillian Flynn has been accused of misogyny in her portrayal of women, but Flynn reveals what readers have known since Shakespeare: the gentler sex can be as wicked, cruel, and vindictive as men. Anyone recall Lady Macbeth? How about the William Congreve quote, "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned"?

I especially like Flynn's use of realistic language to depict authentic human interaction. When used, the coarse language gives the rest of the work a distinct air of verisimilitude. Lesser authors would have softened their use of blue language and gender invective in favor of being less offensive to readers--but there is plenty of fiction around to satisfy those tastes. Amy Dunne's cool girl soliloquy is a classic that tears down both men and women and takes aim at the games we play to be a part of a relationship.

I have seen the 2014 film starring Ben Affleck and Rosemund Pike--in the lead roles of Nick and Amy Dunne--and thought the David Fincher movie was first-rate. A quick check of Gone Girl's credits revealed that the screenplay was written by Gillian Flynn, which accounts for the continuity from page to screen. One of the film's producers--who bought the movie rights--was actress Reese Witherspoon.

Witherspoon wanted the role of Amy, but director Fincher didn't think she was right for the part. Given the great job Rosemund Pike did, I think he may have been correct.

Seeing the film before reading the novel did not diminish my appreciation of the ragged inner lives of the main characters or the spot-on portrayal of our media obsessed culture that roots out the worst and always assumes that the husband dunne (sic) it. Jillian Flynn's novel Gone Girl is emblematic of its age.


Here is a trailer for the movie:

Author Gillian Flynn speaks about misogyny regarding her depiction of women: