Book of the month: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Cheers! We have completed an entire year of our book-club, “Chai, Chat with Books”. We had our very first meeting in September 2012 hosted by Vasavi Chaka. This was followed by six more meetings in the following months. We took a summer vacation break as our club follows the school calendar. The host for the very first meeting of our second year was Aarthi Ramalingam.
As we walked into her house, I saw the first few fall leaves rustling on the ground. Yes, fall is indeed upon us, and Aarthi’s book choice befits the Halloween season – a devilish thriller with dollops of darkness and deceit. Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl is an elaborate and well-laid trap that ensnares not just the characters but the readers as well.
The story is narrated in turn by its two main characters, a husband and wife, who are embroiled in a marriage that has gone really bad. The husband, Nick, finds his wife, Amy, missing from their apartment on their fifth wedding anniversary. As the story unfurls, we hear the account of their marriage from both of them alternately in consecutive chapters. Their accounts weave the story of how their marriage unraveled and went south. But the reader is left confounded and cheated as both of them contradict each other and it becomes hard to decide whom to believe. The reader oscillates between believing and disbelieving both parties. Finally, you get a sneaky feeling that not only are Nick and Amy deceiving each other, but they are manipulating and deceiving the reader as well.
The story is set in our times – in the backdrop of the economic downturn that is still fresh in our collective memory. The context is contemporary, and the tale of the missing wife plays out in a way that’s so reminiscent of the news features that we watch daily on cable TV.
Some of the characters are fashioned entirely after prominent media persons and news anchors – to an extent that we immediately recall similar cases of news and courtroom dramas. But instead of playing out like a typical everyday news story, the author delivers a masterstroke by taking us on a treasure hunt to solve the mystery of the missing wife. At the end, you come away exhilarated – and nauseous – from the rollercoaster ride of a smartly penned tale.
All the members of the book club were unanimous in their admiration for the author’s zippy style of writing. But it’s hard to empathize with the tale’s vacillating and manipulative characters. Amy’s character, though brilliant, is shocking as she is an exceedingly disturbed person. Her childhood experiences appear to have shaped her psyche, but it’s very difficult for us as readers to understand the evil that motivates the streak in her.
The end of the story drew a lot of opinions from the group but most of us felt, in a rather strange and paradoxical way, that the end was befitting of the characters. Gone Girl is an unusual book but is definitely recommended for its fast pace, twists and turns, and a peep into the psyche of a malicious marriage. Try it on a cold fall night and experience some pre-Halloween creeps and jitters.
PS: Gone Girl is available in the Naperville Public Library. Also, a movie based on the novel is in the works, starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike.