A noir mystery so well-written and cleverly structured that it overcame my usual dislike of reading about narcissistic hipster yuppies, not to mention my usual dislike of multiple plot elements which are too spoilery to mention.

Nick’s wife Amy has vanished without a trace, and Nick’s very first chapter contains unsettling musings about the beauty of her skull and the confession that he lied repeatedly in his interview with the police. His narration, which begins the day vanished and continues forward from there, alternates with Amy’s diary, which begins when they first met and also continues forward. Nick is clearly concealing some secrets, but did he kill her? Amy’s narration seems more subtly unreliable, detailing how she makes herself into a paper-thin image of the perfect woman, as portrayed in the shallow magazine quizzes she writes. Is she really fooling herself?

I guessed the main twist upon hearing the premise, and another about a quarter of the way into the book; if you’ve read a lot of mysteries, you will have come across these twists before, though probably not half so well-executed. So the pleasure for me was in the excellent prose and the suspense of the unfolding, in the details rather than the broad strokes. I knew where the story was headed, in general terms, but the smaller twists took me by surprise. I was up till 3:00 AM reading, and have no regrets.

Warning: even for noir, the characters are incredibly unlikable. I did care what happened to them, but not because I liked them.

You can read the beginning of the book here.

Giant spoilers lurk below.

True: upon hearing the premise-- woman vanishes without a trace, husband seems suspicious-- my first thought was "she faked her own death to frame him." And yes, I guessed that Amy's diary was part of the frame early on, though I wasn't sure I was correct.

Plot elements which I despise: women faking rape, women framing men for rape, women getting pregnant to get revenge on men, infidelity, yuppies cheating on each other. And yet I still loved this book.

Amy was an incredibly convincing sociopath. Flynn nailed her narcissism, glee in her own cleverness, and total lack of empathy.

The diary entries were Amy’s construction of the woman she thought men wanted women to be, and yet the real Amy also felt to me like a male construct, hating other women and particularly women’s bodies in graphic detail, in a way that I have only ever heard from men: all those comments about rank pussy and so forth. But Flynn, of course, is female. I wonder if it was a commentary on how even “real Amy” has shaped herself according to male beliefs? Or if it was because Flynn associated sociopathy with misogyny, even if the sociopath was female? Amy’s narrative was just as male gaze-y as Nick’s.

I love the cover, with the woman’s flying hair the only trace left of her as she vanishes off-page, the woman herself elusive, unseen, gone.

Gone Girl: A Novel
kore: (Default)

From: [personal profile] kore

I seriously didn't want to read about smug shallow sociopathic yuppie types either, but so many people were raving about this book I was pretty much OMG FINE, and once I was about 5 pages in, I was hooked. I counted something like six twists -- that's pretty amazing plotting.

Did you read Dare Me by Megan Abbot? Because suburban noir about cheerleaders, in gorgeous prose. I first thought OMG no, cheerleaders, but then read her first book and HAD to have Dare Me, and it's just beautiful. Kind of a similar sensibility, except no yuppies (and more likeable people, but more tragic).
melebeth: (Default)

From: [personal profile] melebeth

I've been debating whether or not I want to read this, because I don't particularly like reading unlikable characters -- which characterized the other two of her books I've read. I think that, based on the top bit of your review (I skipped the rest in case I want to read it later), I shall continue to put it off for now.

From: [identity profile] stardustmajick.livejournal.com

I have personally encountered many women that speak that way about other women. Most women that I know in real life outright dislike other women. I do not know many feminists.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

Oh, dear. I know lots of women who wouldn't call themselves feminists, but not many who hate all other women, or at least not to that extreme.

From: [identity profile] youraugustine.livejournal.com

I can't quite ditto - through careful trial I have managed to surround myself with healthier people even in face-to-face - but yeah, I know PLENTY of women who have that much disgust for other women/women's bodies.

From: [identity profile] stfg.livejournal.com

I read this for a book club and had to push myself to read it until about halfway through when the full extent of Amy's sociopathy becomes apparent. My main problem with the first part of the book was that I really did not like the characters and was not interested in all the description of the disintegration of their marriage. I did end up liking the book very much though, despite my rocky start with it.
ext_6284: Estara Swanberg, made by Thao (Default)

From: [identity profile] estara.livejournal.com

Interesting. The Booksmugglers just released their dual review of this and they had a similar AND different view: I'm just glad you ladies read these for me, so I can avoid them widely when I come across them.

From: [identity profile] kimberlite8.livejournal.com

The rank pussy comment was in reference to Nick's mistress, no? I guess that didnt strike me as a male construct any more than if Nick had called Amy's lover a pencil dick. The kind of observations Amy had about femininity reminded me of the same polemics that Ariel Levy tread in Female Chauvenist Pigs. if you think that book slut-shamed, then I can see how Amy came off as internalizing misogyny.

I thought this book was very well written, yes it had Law and Order type plot twists, but the characterization of both Nick and Amy had a lot of acute observation. I did sympathesize with Nick.

The pacing was great! I heard Reese Witherspoon will adapt this into a movie which really works for her given Tracey Flick and some of the other brittle women she's played.

From: [identity profile] telophase.livejournal.com

Just finished the book. Didn't like it very much--I can appreciate the things she did, but the general evil-woman things just annoyed me.

I've read her other two books--Sharp Objects, which I mostly got through because I wanted to know whodunnit and I had a bit of sympathy (but not much) with the main character, and Dark Places, which I really enjoyed.

From: [identity profile] telophase.livejournal.com

For me, yes: the POV character managed to walk the line between being a fairly pathetic figure and someone I could sympathize with, because she seemed realistic given her circumstances.

Libby was 7 when her family was killed, she testified against her brother, and as she's pretty much unable to hold down a job on her own she's been living off of a fund established by donations from well-wishers which is running dry. She meets up with a true crime enthusiast society, the members of which are convinced that her brother is innocent, so she sees a chance at being able to get more money out of them if she digs into her past and gives them what they want, and that's where the book goes.
Edited Date: 2013-02-24 01:14 am (UTC)

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