Alright, so March is over and I've read another book! This time it's Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn. I know, I know, it's about time...but before we get into my thoughts on the book, here are the links for the month.
So, no one actually sent me a link this month for books reviewed, but we always know that Irene is good for a few, so head on over to her site to see reviews for Big Little Lies, The Girl on the Train and Sharp Objects.
And now for mine:
It’s hard to know how to review this book. Because I’ve already seen the film, and absolutely loved it, I’m not sure how to separate the two, since the aspects of the film that struck me so strongly are aspects changed from the source, and while they share a common core, this is one of those instances where the film is better than the movie.
That does not mean that this is a bad book, like at all. It was thoroughly entertaining and really well written, from a storytelling perspective, and the themes addressed and characters explored are really well designed and explained, but for reasons I’ll get into in a moment, I felt like the restraints placed on storytelling from a cinematic medium served this story well; very well.
The story told is one that is hard to explain without spoiling anything pertinent to the overall experience, but I will assure you of this, whether you have seen the film or not, but novel is still wholly enjoyable, even with the big ‘twist’ revealed (and visa-versa, since I knew the twist before seeing the film and it was still extremely effective). Still, I’d hate to be the one to spoil anything, so I’ll just say this; Flynn’s story is that of a troubled marriage that is shaken to the core when the wife, Amy, winds up missing on the morning of their 5th wedding anniversary. Nick, her husband, is left to piece together what happened, an apparent struggle and what looks like abduction written all over his home, and yet eventually clues left behind place him in the hot seat when he is perceived to be the guilty party. What follows is a superbly conceived, yet not always superbly crafted, tale of marital unraveling and a rather astute take on the relationships that bind us.
So, here is the long and the short of it; Gillian Flynn did herself and her story a massive favor when she gutted out the unnecessary, cut down on the obvious and altered, if ever so slightly, that ending. I remember all the talk about the script changes when the film was in production, and many fans of the book were concerned about what the finished product would be. What about the ending!?!? I heard she made changes!!!! What about Nick!?!?! I heard he’s more sympathetic in the movie!!!! Yes on both accounts and yet I’m so glad that she did. During the whole awards run last year (where Flynn was disgustingly snubbed the Oscar nom for her tremendous screenplay), there was an interview with Flynn where she talked about adapting her own work, and she noted that as a screenwriter you need to take out all bias to your work and understand that not everything will fit into the confines of a film. You have to take out things, things you may love. You have to alter scenes to make them flow better within the scope of a film. Not everything has room to breathe like it does on the page, when you can always add another page of explanation to make the last one make sense. And so, with that in mind, Flynn got to work making ‘Gone Girl’ more cinematic, and in the process she made amendments that only helped bolster those core themes.
Sure, some characters suffered (Andie and Nick’s father most notably) and yet others were saved altogether (surprisingly, Desi works far better on film than on the printed page, and I was not the character’s biggest supporter when I first saw the film), but the most important thing here is that the core characters, Amy and Nick, are given more depth in the choices Flynn made with her screenplay.
My biggest issue with the book itself is that Nick and Amy, in many moments, feel like broad caricatures. Yes, there is a lot of ‘extreme’ going on here, and the satirical nature of the way this story is told needs that, but on the printed page I felt like Flynn went almost too heavy with ‘on the nose’ references to set up these characters. So much of what Amy but especially Nick were thinking made them feel like contradictions at times, and while I love the fact that these characters feel like victims and villains in almost a single breath, there is an absoluteness to some of what Flynn does here that laces these characters with a detachment I didn’t feel in the film.
With the right amount of restraint, the right amount of subtlety (this book is far from subtle), Flynn was able to turn broad caricatures into living breathing representations of you and me and everyone we know.
But this is where I feel like my coming at this from this particular vantage point is skewed or manipulated because of how much I loved the movie and, more specifically WHY I loved the movie. For me, Fincher’s film said so much about marriage that we don’t often acknowledge, about the way that we manipulate relationships through lies and the way that we detach ourselves from others due to our reaction to discovering who these people really are. While Flynn’s novel says those same things, it does so with a more definite hand, with a louder voice, and because of that it feels a little too…contrived.
With that said, I still wholly loved this read. It’s an extremely well written book in that it completely immerses you in the story, and Flynn’s writing style (and the brilliant way she constructed the book) is so unique and says so much about her talent. She is a gem of a writer, and even more than a novelist, she’s a superb screenwriter, which is almost harder to do.
So read the book and see the movie, in whichever order you would like, because they are both worth experiencing for what they bring to the table.