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Bookends: Two disturbed people and a murder plot – maybe October 12, 2015

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: Two disturbed people and a murder plot – maybe

By Dan DavidsonGONE GIRL

February 11, 2015

– 854 words –

Gone Girl

By Gillian Flynn

Broadway Books

560 pages

$11.99

They’ve made a movie out of this book and I’ll probably need to see it some day just to figure out how they could possibly have managed the chore. It’s a real page-turner of a mystery, but it has to have the most unreliable narrator since that Tom Cruise movie Vanilla Sky. In fact, it has two of them, just to up the ante.

There are various definitions of the term “unreliable narrator”, but the one I’m going to quote from in Wikipedia pretty much summarizes the others.

“An unreliable narrator is a narrator, whether in literature, film, or theatre, whose credibility has been seriously compromised. The term was coined in 1961 by Wayne C. Booth in The Rhetoric of Fiction. While unreliable narrators are almost by definition first person narrators, arguments have been made for the existence of unreliable second and third person narrators, especially within the context of film and television.”

In popular fiction one of the most famous unreliable narrators is the genial fellow in Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, in which she brilliantly broke what was thought to be one of the cardinal rules of the detective genre by having the first person narrator be the murderer, in a twist only revealed at the end of the novel.

Gillian Flynn has two first person narrators in Gone Girl and, in the final analysis, you can’t believe too much of what either of them has to say.

Nick and Amy Dunne have a marriage that is falling apart. This is partly because of who they are, and partly because of economic circumstances. Nick was a journalist who was downsized by the advent of social media.

Amy writes magazine quizzes and loses her job not long after that, as well much of the substantial fortune inherited from her parents, who have written a series of best selling children’s books in which a girl named Amy is the heroine. She’s suffering from Christopher Robin’s Syndrome.

They relocate from New York City to a town in Missouri to help look after Nick’s parents, and they use what’s left of Amy’s money to buy a bar, which Nick runs with his sister. Margo.

In Nick’s chapters during part one of the book (Boy Loses Girl) Nick comes home one day to find the place trashed and Amy gone. There’s blood. It seems she’s been kidnapped, but as time passes without any sign of her, suspicion falls on Nick and he becomes desperate to clear his name. Clues keep emerging that seem to point to him and he becomes convinced that someone (could it be Amy?) is trying to frame him. About a week passes and one by one, Nick’s supporters find it more and more difficult to accept his innocence.

Meanwhile, we are given snippets of what purports to be Amy’s diary, covering the five years of her life with Nick, outlining some of their troubles and how she, just like her fictional namesake, tries to put the best spin on things and make the marriage work.

All of this takes slightly more than half of the book. Then come the bombshells. Nick has a much younger lover. Amy’s alive and has planned the whole thing to take revenge on him for, oh, whatever isn’t working for them and, more particularly, for her.

She has fabricated tons of damning evidence about Nick, and set it all up like a timed-release cold capsule, including the real fact of his affair, to do him in. Remember, she used to write mystery puzzles for a job.

The chapters continue to alternate as Nick gets more and more desperate and Amy’s hiding out plan begins to fall apart. She turns to a former admirer, who turns out to be just a little bit nuts, and finds herself trapped in a situation that is actually worse than the marriage she was trying to get away from. Part two (Boy Meets Girl) takes up about a third of the book and leaves us at the point when Amy executes her next escape plan.

By this point, Nick has actually been arrested, and is out on a bond. Amy returns in part three (Boy Gets Girl Back, or Visa Versa – the last 62 pages), with a lurid story explaining her absence, even though it doesn’t really explain all the phony evidence that entrapped Nick. It does, however, set him free. He doesn’t seem to have much choice but to stay with her and keep quiet about his suspicions, and she seals that bargain in a particularly effective manner.

While there is some physical action in this thriller, much of the gruesome stuff happens offstage, and the main event is the tour through the minds of two very disturbed people. That makes this a psychological thriller and a very effective one, but because so much of it is internal, it must have been hard to write the script for the movie.

-30-

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