I read widely from many genres. Perhaps this blog will feature fewer ratings and reviews, but I certainly intend to write about my reading life - it's the subject I most find myself wanting to talk about.
I read Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl at the end of the summer (2013) after hearing buzz about it for months. As I often do on summer weekends, I read quickly, finishing the book just a weekend. Now, I have taken the time to read the book again, more slowly, and will here address two of the major thoughts that have stayed with me regarding the novel: First, was I being manipulated, and second, why did I see a movie star on the pages?
I know that every work of fiction is a manipulation - and that is a neutral term. In the creation of text, choices are made, and those choices can be manipulative or they can be a pleasurable guide. My instinct after reading GG the first time was that I had not been manipulated, and my second reading confirms that. Flynn lays out everything a reader needs as she goes along. Nothing is withheld; the clues and time stamps are appropriately placed so that a reader can unravel the mystery as she goes along and not be blindsided or cheated with too little or missed information. And that's what makes it transcend genre fiction for me -- no moment of "If only I would have known . . ." There is no cheating here. It's almost more a character study than a plot-driven work (and there's plenty of plot).
And what a character study. I can't remember liking a book so well when the characters were so unlikable (often a deal-breaker for me). Nick is an a**hole. But Amy is a sociopath.
Speaking of Nick . . . I believe when I picked it up that I knew that GG had been optioned for film, but I don't believe I knew anything about the production. But as I read it, I couldn't get Ben Affleck out of my head. I saw his face; I heard his voice. I've seen him play both the earnest boy-next-door types Nick wants to be and the slimy a-holes Nick actually is. And Affleck plays both kinds of characters well. He even has Nick's chin cleft. I think the only things wrong are that Nick is only 34 in the book (Affleck is past 40), and his hair color may be different. And now he is Nick in the David Fincher-directed film.
It's strange how strongly I saw Affleck all the while I was reading. I don't think films need to be exact re-tellings of books (although the overall theme should remain intact). But I don't really "cast" novels while I'm reading. (I like to read the book before seeing a film so that the film does not become the primary text in my head and override what the author had done.) He was just there. For all 400+ pages.
So, come next fall, I will visit GG again, this time on screen (purportedly with a new "third act" written by Flynn herself). We'll see how my interpretation meets Hollywood's.