For the last few months, literary circles and feminist blogs have been raving about Gillian Flynn’s latest mystery, Gone Girl. I recommended it to a friend after reading a favourable review of the book, and it’s been sitting on my pile of “to read” tomes since she finished it.
With all the abductions of young, pretty women of late (Jill Meagher, Sarah Cafferkey), Flynn hits what we want to read on the head, both figuratively and literally speaking.
Gone Girl deals with the disappearance of a thirty-something wife in Missouri and the husband is the prime suspect amid marriage and money troubles. One chapter is written from the point of view of the disappeared Amy, the titular character of her parents’ iconic series of child psychology books several decades ago and all around “cool girl”, while the next is written by the husband-in-question, Nick Dunne, and so on and so forth.
There’s not much more I can say without giving away the myriad twists and turns up until the last third of the book, when the mystery seems to stall and the ending lacks the lustre of the rest of Gone Girl.
In the acknowledgements at the end of the story, Flynn thanks her editor for pushing her to move beyond being “82.6 per cent done” forever, and I have to say that doesn’t surprise me. The rest of the book is so well crafted, both from a plot and character point of view, that it seems like Flynn couldn’t figure out how to end the story or just rushed through it in order to meet deadline.
It’s disappointing because Gone Girl really had me thinking about the acts women put on and how sometimes we never realise who we truly are and what we want; how men see women; and whether the book was a feminist or anti-feminist one.
While some of the language used by Nick denoted a deep-down hatred of women despite his best efforts to be a “good man”, unlike his father, and Amy’s slut-shaming, rape-crying, graphic descriptions of sex and violence and her obsession with revenge questions whether victims are completely blameless, I think Flynn ultimately painted a picture of just how ugly humanity can sometimes be.
There’s a difference between writing misogyny for misogyny’s sake and pointing out that misogyny exists and is as insidious in fiction as it is in the real world, and that’s what Gone Girl gets right.
Image via Good Reads.