Love is the world’s infinte mutability; lies, hatred, murder, even, are all knit up in it; it is the inevitable blossomming of its opposites, a magnificent rose smelling faintly of blood.
A confession: it’s been a long time since I’ve read contemporary fiction. Although I keep an eye on the bestseller list, quality doesn’t always follow popularity so I prefer to plough a furrow through a vague wish list of titles that takes little account of current trends (Game of Thrones has been a recent exception).
But last week I was on a train, idly flicking through the Kindle Store when Gone Girl popped into my head. It was one of those titles that had been on the edge of my consciousness for some time so I downloaded the sample. And then, surprising myself, the whole book.
Any thriller, whether on the page or screen, stands or falls on the level of sustained momentum driving the plot and holding our interest. As with Breaking Bad on Netflix, I found myself sitting up too late, moving further and further into the story, appalled but riveted by the characters. Team Amy or Team Nick? Husband or wife? Neither is the straightforward choice it first seems; indeed the way Gillian Flynn plays with our prejudices is one of the strengths of the novel. Aside from the plot, which occasionally but never quite fatally stretched credulity, it was the alternating narrative voices which rang most true, their psychology and choice of language working to create an authentic impression of damaged but believable protagonists, landlocked in a marriage somewhere on the far side of dystopia.
There was also much unexpected humour, especially in the second half of the novel, but there were times the humour became so black as to slide into a satire on contemporary society, media, marriage and family. This may well be intentional since Flynn strikes me as an insightful, smart writer.
If there is a criticism it is one common to most if not all thriller or mystery stories: the feeling of being manipulated. It may be a necessary conceit, a quid pro quo, but you still have to shake off a feeling of ‘being had’ come the denoument.
Gone Girl is an enjoyable page turner. I won’t dismiss it as mere ‘holiday reading’ because it is intelligent, well written and satisfying.
Next on my list is a quick re-reading of Gatsby followed by Hilary Mantell’s Wolf Hall.