This is also a post I wrote last year. My book club fell apart and I had no one to talk to about my most favorite novel of the year, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. So, I sat down, put on my Nerd Lit Hat, and wrote my own mini-analysis. I had wine while doing it, so it was almost like a book club. C’mon, how many of your book clubs have turned into a girl’s wine night? Yeah, that’s what I thought. I should clarify right here and now that this is not a review. The plot will be spoiled in this series. I will also be posting reviews, however, those will be entititled Book Review.
Book Club: Gone Girl
If you haven’t read Gone Girl, stop reading this post and go purchase Flynn’s latest novel. You may also want to cancel all social engagements, because you won’t want to put it down. I mean, this brought my “The Walking Dead” marathon to a screeching halt. Not since Barbara Kingsolver and the Poisonwood Bible have I read a story that provides first-person narratives from different characters that are whole unto themselves. Moreover, the characters are nuanced and interesting, the storyline is compelling, and there’s a believable (albeit disturbing) ending that tucks all the loose ends in neatly.
Like I explained, this is not a book review; it’s a book club. Okay, fine, a book club of one. Me. But, feel free to join in by leaving a comment. I promise to not take anything personally. Wait, that’s a lie. I probably will take it personally; however, I will be mature and respond as if I were not offended that you don’t think all my insights are anything less than brilliant.
For this first Book Club, I thought I’d do a brief character analysis. I had written more, but I can barely make it through the entire orinal piece. Believe it or not, here is the abbreviated version. Even if no one reads it, I was just so happy to be drinking my wine and typing away like the happy, little nerd that I am!
Mmme, let’s start with….
Oh, poor too-good-looking-for-his-own-good Nicholas. I vacillate between feeling sorry for Nick and thinking that Go is right, he’s just as sick and twisted as Amy. I don’t think that it’s the baby that keeps them together. Rather, it’s the fear that his own kid won’t like him. He pictures “Mother whispering, whispering lies into that tiny pink ear” and, therefore, confesses, “ I deleted my story.” Ah, yes, the ultimate revenge on a journalist: Taking away his story. However, it’s worth it for Nick because signing up to play the role of perfect husband to Amy guarantees that he will be his best self, a perfect husband and father. Thus, he will never succumb to his worst fear: Ending up like his father. Yeah, that’s a tad cliché; but, Flynn’s novel makes it way more interesting than just an “oh, I might end up like dad” syndrome. Don’t you agree?
Still, I worry for Larry Nicholas. I was holding Avery as she slept while I started on the last couple of chapters. Poor baby girl had been teething and most likely sick with a cold (how do you tell the difference sometimes?) all week with a cold and holding her ensured that she would sleep better. You know, so that I could finish my book! I’m a very selfless mom like that. So, as I’m reading the incredible and chilling conclusion, I started reflecting on my own marriage. I mean, calling Amy crazy is oversimplifying this incredible character. Sure, she sounds loco en la cabeza when she says things like, “Love should require both partners to be their very best at all times.” However, how often do we expect just that from our partner? Just yesterday I kidded with Seth that he should know what I want for my order from Puesto, a local take-out Mexican joint, and that I really worried about “us” when he ordered me things like fried cheese and huilacochtle. It’s a little inside joke. Sheesh, I never realized how dangerous those were!
Avery was in a pretty deep sleep by the time I finished thumbing through the epilogue. I held her up and held her close, her warm cheeks resting on my shoulder, as I swayed back and forth while patting her back. It had been a rough several days for me and baby girl. Earlier that day, I called Seth to say hello and check on his flight arrival that evening. He had had a great work trip or, as I like to call it, vacation.
Your sweet husband is on the last day of a work trip during which he has enjoyed good food, time with family and friends, as well as several nights of uninterrupted sleep. Meanwhile, you have been eating whatever was easiest to scarf down while holding a fussy baby, away from friends with little ones, and getting up several times during the night. When he starts telling you about his trip, you
a) Are happy for him, “how wonderful that you got to spend time with family and friends before work started Monday. What a special treat to eat slow-roasted pulled pork that Pete spent all day smoking in his new Green Egg!”
b) Let him know nicely that you are happy he will be back to help with the baby, “wow, it sounds like you pulled some long days at the office. We’ve had our hand full here, too, and are excited daddy will be home to help with bath time tonight. Would you mind going into work late tomorrow so that I can catch up on some sleep?”
c) Start a passive-aggressive ramble about things that have nothing to do with why you are actually annoyed, “I don’t see how you’re gonna fit all those bikes in the storage closet. The hallway is a mess. Blah blah blah” all in a perturbed voice.
Answer) A or B would do, but I did C. I wasn’t happy. I was tired, worn out, and more tired.
Sure, I would have preferred if Seth has just said he had had a nice time in general and spent a lot of time working so that I wouldn’t have felt like Avery and I (That’s the correct grammar) had missed out on a fun little vacation. Yeah, it made perfect sense for him to share the fun details of his trip. But, tired new mommies don’t make a whole lot of sense when they haven’t had a good night sleep in days/weeks/months. Truth is, it probably wouldn’t have mattered what Seth said, I still would have picked a fight. Of course, I had the good sense to call him back and apologize. I knew I was being unreasonable. Seth came home to a smiling wife. But, Nick? He can’t even say the right thing before baby makes three. “Just wait until Nick meets post-partum Amy,” is all I could think. “Poor guy is dead already.”
I like Amy. Admit it, you do, too…at least a little bit. No matter what you think of her, by the end of the novel, you’ve got to give the woman her due: Amy is just plain smarter than everyone else and (almost, more on this later*) always one step ahead. Flynn does an especially excellent job of using Amy to highlight the normative values that society places on women with Diary Amy. Likable and kind, “She’s easy to like,” Amy explains, noting, “I’ve never understood why that’s considered a compliment.” She’s the Cool Girl that takes on the likes and dislikes of her boyfriend, feigns interest in his hobbies, and lets her boyfriend get away putting her second anytime he feels like it. To the men who date the Cool Girl, Amy yearns to explain,
“You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss him.”
The women who pretend to be Cool Girl are all the worse because, “They’re not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they’re pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be.”
Except, oh wait, when Amy rises above all of the roles women play and reveals “Actual Amy,” she a psycho-bitch murder who has cut her teeth by driving her best childhood friend to suicide and accusing an ex-boyfriend of rape. And her final trump card? She got pregnant. Granted, technically, one could argue that she did it without submitting to a man. Still. It’s the ultimate cliché of female manipulations; I’m pregnant, so now you are stuck with me. Forever. Also, I might kill you, turn your child against you, or worse. Yeah, not exactly a feminist role-model.
Margo, Nick’s explains, is the “one person in the entire world I am totally myself with.” Twins, they “spent nine months back to back, covering each other. It became a lifelong habit. It never mattered to me that she was a girl, strange for a deeply selfishly conscious kid. What can I say? She was always just cool.” Cool! Margo was actually, genuinely Cool Girl. Sure, their relationship gave the impression to their high school friends that they were involved in twincest. I spent most of the novel waiting for Go reveal that she is in-fact gay. Okay, she was a little boring and a bit of a pushover. But, like I said, she’s the Cool Girl for real! She loves her brother no matter what, no If’s about it.
Why is it that the one woman who figures out the truth, despite all of the convincing lies and manipulation, is dead ugly? On one hand we have Amy, who Nick describes as the, “first pretty girl I ever dated, really dated.” On the other hand, we have Boney who was “surprisingly ugly—brazenly, beyond the scope of everyday ugly.” Sheesh. Lucky for Boney, Nick has an “affinity for ugly women,” who include all of the women from his mother’s side of his family, including good ol’ mom, because, “they were all smart and kind and funny and sturdy, good, good women.” Not cool, but good. Girls should be good, after all, right?
I like that the villain is the beauty and the hero’s a far cry from the Disney-esq dark, skinned villain with an accent. Still, it’s a bit unfair that the good girl is also the ugly girl, right?
Many thanks to Flynn for staying far, far away from the Madonna-Whore characters so many authors (mostly male)
*The anti-feminist character. This woman runs away from an abusive relationship and then punches Amy in the face so that she can steel her money. So, she’s a doormat for her boyfriends and physically abuses her so called friend. Plus, Betsy is such a 1950’s name, right?
Okay, just one more bit for the literature nerds out there…
Inside jokes play a key role throughout the novel. If Nick had been in on the treasure hunt inside jokes, they would probably still be living in NYC, happy as a clam (Lobsters?). Well, anyway, I love when authors include details that reveal what can only be (or what I’d like to think) are their little pet peeves and quirks.
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle:
It’s the book Amy suffers through on her and Nick’s honeymoon while he devours thrillers. Have you read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle? I have and I will fully admit that I set it down about ¾ of the way through and picked it up about 5 months later out of sheer determination to get through the increasingly weird plot and cast of characters. If you’re reading this, I hope you already finished reading Gone Girl. A thriller. That, if you are like me, you completely devoured. Both are about a wife who mysteriously disappears one day, after which husbands realize they never really knew these women at all. I mean, both couples even have a cat. See! Inside jokes are fun; but, only when you “get it.” Otherwise, you end up just getting super annoyed at a novel that keeps making allusions to Moby Dick, a whale of a novel that you have no intention of ever reading. But, that’s a book club write-up for another day. So, my point is: No wonder Amy was so angry with Nick for not being able to get any of her treasure hunt clues based on inside jokes he doesn’t get, and no wonder he just wanted to give up.
Well, that concludes my first Book Club. Hope you had some wine on-hand and enjoyed this little break from journaling ;)