WARNING: There be spoilers ahead! If you plan to read this book or even watch the movie, do not read this post. I will spoil the plot for you. All is fair in love and blogging!
The next book in my two-person book club that we read is Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. This was my first experience reading any of Flynn’s work, and I’m not sure if I’ll read more. Gone Girl was entertaining, and I couldn’t put it down. The writing was intelligent, and I loved that she wrote from both characters’ points of view. However, something was bothering me – really bothering me – and I couldn’t put my finger on it. Sure, I didn’t like the ending, but that’s not a new occurrence for me as a reader. Why then did I dislike a well-written, page-turner of a book?
It wasn’t until my friend and I watched the movie and I pondered what I had seen that it hit me. I didn’t like the book because it was well-written and kept me on the edge of my seat, and after thinking about the negative message of this book, I hated that I was so into it initially. Let me explain. Amy Dunne, the “gone” girl in the book, disappears, and her husband Nick takes the fall for her disappearance. Every circumstantial clue points to him killing her. There is no body, but cases have been built on less. And in the state where the story unfolds, Missouri, they have the death penalty. Nick isn’t looking at just prison time; he’s looking at a death sentence. But you want to know the really weird thing? The thing that I feel was in the subconscious as I read Amy’s journal entries? Amy isn’t dead. In fact, she’s planned the entire disappearance and framing of Nick. She’s been planning it for two years and has meticulously planned every last detail down to the woodshed. Why would a wife do this to her husband? Because she was a woman scorned, of course. She found out Nick was cheating on her with a much-younger woman. So that justifies all this, right?
Adultery is horrible, and as many of us have experienced, it’s not an easy thing to get over. However, this doesn’t constitute framing your husband (or lover or boyfriend) and essentially murdering him through the death penalty. One does not call for the other. Every scorned woman may have had revenge fantasies, but few of us think of following these through. Unless you’re a psychopath like Amy Dunne. Throughout the book, we see her breaking the law through lying about the actions of past boyfriends, we see her constantly lying and deceiving to pull of this coup against Nick, we see that she has little regard for the safety of others (Desi, anyone?), and we see that she has no remorse or guilt for what she has done. Looking back, I do appreciate Flynn’s portrayal of the psychopath. She wrote the character of Amy beautifully from a psychology point of view.
OK, so the story doesn’t sound that bad. I mean, who doesn’t like a good revenge story? I do, but I like them when the vengeance is warranted and when the protagonist gets revenge for the correct reason. Amy only gets revenge through lying. She manipulates and fakes evidence. She makes up an elaborate ruse about how physically abusive Nick was that she was actually fearful for her life and had to buy a gun. Later in the story to escape, or really more like rid herself of another male, she fakes rape. Flynn writes, “I took a wine bottle, and I abused myself with it every day, so the inside of my vagina looked…right. Right for a rape victim. Then today I let him have sex with me so I had his semen…” This isn’t the first time I’ve read a book about a woman who lies to get her way, but this one upset me more than any other.
Why? Because in our society, many people do not take rape seriously. Many think that a lot of women make up their sexual assault for the attention or to belong to the “club.” Women are the victims, yet they are all too often silenced because of the 2% of women who do lie about their sexual assault. Add to that the lack of enforceable laws concerning domestic violence and restraining orders. Too often it’s a “he said she said” situation, and historically the men have the voice. Amy’s lies throughout the book perpetuate this idea that women are conniving and men are the victims of this manipulation. Her vindictiveness and jealously give her reason to lie, and even her older age compared to Nick’s mistress can be cited as a reason for these untruths and need to seek vengeance against Nick. All of these reasons for lying have now become cliche. How often do we see that? Women are labeled as hysterical and not trustworthy. In a culture that already paints women in such a bad light, why perpetuate this myth?
So, yes. It does anger me that the book is so well-written and a page turner. It angers me that Flynn created the character of Amy so well. It angers me that my initial response to this book was one of enjoyment rather than outrage. I’m even frustrated at myself that I didn’t realize why the book was niggling at my subconscious until I watched the movie. I despise that it spreads the fallacy of women lying about their rape/abuse and that men are the true victims (and even that affairs are not really that big of a deal in the long run).
Yes, Flynn is free to write what she wants, and I’m interested in her other books and what those deal with. Perhaps Amy’s lying really isn’t that big of a deal solely because she is a psychopath; however, it still bothers me. She is a talented writer, and if looking for a book to enjoy but not really delve into the societal problems with the crux of the story as a whole, this is the book for you. The movie was a great adaptation of the book, following the main plot lines perfectly. What else would one expect from director David Finch? I hate to give praise, but praise is due for the sheer craft of the director and writer.