On Thursday, July 11th, the Fixed on Fiction book group met to discuss Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. Here are a few of the comments made during our meeting:
We began our meeting with a brief background of the author. We discussed Flynn’s desire to challenge the “women as victims” norm found in many thrillers and instead suggest that women are not, necessarily, “naturally good.” One reader mentioned that she had read Flynn’s other novels (Dark Places and Sharp Objects) and found them to be very dark and intriguing, but Gone Girl remained her favorite of Flynn’s works. We were also very excited to talk about the film adaptation as news broke that very afternoon regarding Ben Affleck’s rumored involvement with the movie. We are hopeful that the film will be as good as the novel in that Flynn is writing the screenplay.
Moving on to our book discussion, the majority of readers greatly enjoyed this book; however, one or two people confessed that they struggled with Gone Girl due to the fact that they were unable to feel sympathetic towards Nick and Amy. Yet overall most of us were hooked right away and became quickly engrossed in the story.
On Amy…The majority of readers felt extremely sympathetic towards Amy while reading her (faux) diary entries, which was certainly Flynn’s (and Amy’s!) intention. When we learned the truth behind the diaries and Amy’s great set-up, the group seemed divided on her fate. Some readers really wanted her to get caught, feeling as though Nick deserved this justice, while others loved that she didn’t get caught and found that her ability to successfully plan her disappearance and reappearance made the book more “fun.” Flynn has labeled Amy as a “functioning sociopath,” which seemed like an apt description; however, we did question how her parents could be so unaware of their daughter’s true personality. One group member suggested that her parents never noticed Amy’s controlling, aggressive behavior because they were so self involved with their own marriage and the Amazing Amy series.
On Nick…When asked when they began to suspect Nick (if at all), most readers said they didn’t raise an eyebrow until Nick described seeing Amy in pools of blood on the kitchen floor. Surprisingly, most readers weren’t overly suspicious in the early chapters when Nick confessed to us (the readers) that he lied to the police. One member confessed that she never thought of Nick as the killer because he was too “bumbling” and not sharp enough to get away with the crime. The group also discussed how Flynn expertly built suspense by providing us with two unreliable narrators. One member pointed out that Nick lied to the readers by omission whereas Amy completely deceived us in a more straightforward manner.
On Desi…Oh Desi, you totally creeped us out. With the framed high school photo of Amy and the overbearing mother, this guy made us cringe.
On cool girls and dancing monkeys…We briefly commented on Amy’s description of cool girls and dancing monkeys. One reader pointed out that there is some truth to this notion, and it’s not necessarily just applicable to NYC snobbery, but rather a common practice among couples. Another member described “dancing monkeys” as a way for women to show off to their girlfriends and imply that their marriage is superior, cooler. When we began to discover that Nick and Amy were not behaving as their “true selves” in the early stages of their courtship, one member suggested that perhaps both characters struggled with identity, and were happier acting like different people, as a result of their negligent parents.
- “Casual cruelty” in marriages. When asked if Nick and Amy’s extremely rocky relationship was believable, or if it felt like surely this marriage wouldn’t have lasted five years, most readers surmised that the unhappy marriage was indeed plausible. We briefly discussed the casual cruelty that can be found in marriages, in which couples can be exceptionally mean to each other yet remain together, and how Flynn’s set-up of Nick and Amy’s dysfunctional relationship was (sadly) very easy to believe through Nick’s narration and Amy’s diaries.
- The economy’s affect on relationships. A few readers pointed out that Flynn portrayed the poor economy in a believable fashion through Nick and Amy’s lay offs and descriptions of Nick’s dilapidated hometown; however, one reader also pointed out that Flynn subtly discussed how poor economic conditions add strain and stress on marriages as well.
- Tom Sawyer. Perhaps one of our biggest “Ah ha!” moments of the evening was the realization that Flynn set her novel in Mark Twain’s boyhood home with very clever intentions. It was mentioned that in Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Tom and Huck fake their own deaths and only reveal themselves at the end of the novel when they attend their own funerals. Similarly, Amy fakes her own disappearance, and possible murder, and only reveals herself when Nick is extremely close to going to trial. The group discussed the author’s cleverness with this subtle allusion, and most readers greatly enjoyed this added detail. Well played, Ms. Flynn, well played.
The Ending…We discussed how Amy’s final words to us in Gone Girl made us a bit nervous for Nick’s sake. Of course this led to discussions of wondering if Amy would become a single mother and what would become of the baby. Most readers seemed satisfied with the ending, but one member mentioned that she was hoping Nick and Amy were planning this grand disappearance scheme together so that they could cash in on the insurance money and run away together. Clearly a much more romantic ending! After our meeting, one group member came back to LLD a few days later and mentioned the fact that Amy alludes to a previous crime in the last pages of the text. The reader believes Amy said something along the lines of: “I’ve done this before…” Well, this librarian foolishly returned her copy of Gone Girl and it, along with all the LLD copies, have been swept into the holds queue so the search for this aforementioned detail will have to wait until the next copy is available!
Check out what the Murder Among Friends group, one of our sister book groups at LLD, had to say about Gone Girl when they discussed the novel in March 2013!