Oh boy. Where to start?
It’s fitting I’m writing this review on Halloween as the true horror of today is just the amount of people that seem to be obsessed with this novel and it’s film (although I get it slightly with the film as it’s by David Fincher).
The problem with this book, for me, wasn’t the plot or the narrative — I actually found them quite enjoyable, albeit somewhat predictable (c’mon, it wasn’t THAT hard to figure out at least half of what would happen by, like, the first couple of chapters/diary entries/whatever they should be referred to). The problem I have with ‘Gone Girl’ is the writing and the characters.
Personally, I couldn’t distinguish much difference between the prose used for Nick’s narration and the prose used in Amy’s diary entries and the real-life Amy; both just felt kind of sloppy and overly cynical. For the first part of the novel I just wanted to shake Nick and tell him to stop sulking around, get over himself and actually try writing online. Like, it’s not that bad, is it? (IS IT?). I never found Amy likeable; I rather favoured with that girl’s opinion in the weird cabin thing when she basically said Amy seemed like a “spoilt,” rich and privileged girl — which she is. She and Nick are completely unreliable and un-likeable narrators, and I get that this is Flynn’s intention, but it didn’t work for me. Rather than feeling pure hatred and detest towards Amy for what she did to Nick and Desi, or to Nick for FUCKING STAYING WITH HER(?!), I just felt a spark of annoyance, and then awareness at the manipulation the author was doing, and once I felt this feeling it stayed with me for the rest of the novel. Instead of focusing on the narrative, which – don’t get me wrong – is intriguing and original, I was focused on the fact the author was manipulating me. I couldn’t get drawn in because my brain was too busy analysing what and who the author wanted me to hate.
The biggest disappointment for me, though, were the characters, particularly the women in the novel. First of all, I felt as if none of the characters could stand on their own; they all seemed like cardboard cutouts. If Amy were to have died, what would Nick do? What would he have left? His whole world revolves around Amy, and the same with her. Of course the only way for the plot to progress was for Amy to run to a man, of course Amy couldn’t actually function or think properly without a man, specifically Nick, with her. I’ll practise the same test on Amy: if Nick had died, what would Amy have left? What would her world be? It just doesn’t work.
The other female characters in the novel weren’t represented well either. Perhaps this is due to the lens we’re forced to view them through, but once again, this didn’t work for me. The police woman, and almost all side characters, didn’t have a life outside of their role to play to the plot (this also goes for Andie and the TV hosts etc. etc.). Nick’s sister, Margot, is the closest representation to a good female representation I can think of in the novel, yet this representation is still flawed – she is often referred to in a way that suggests she’s like ‘one of the guys,’ as if masculinity = likeableness.
I’ve read a lot of reviews criticising Flynn for writing a dislikable female character, but this is where I disagree. I commend Flynn on writing a dislikable lead female, because if women are ever going to be represented as good as men in mainstream media, then we can’t just have likeable characters, we need the whole spectrum – just like men have.
I wish I could have liked this novel, because everyone who does is very passionate and protective of it, but it just didn’t work for me. The characters were too one dimensional, the writing didn’t engage me, and, while the narrative is good, it just didn’t cut it.