Alex, Lora and I discuss how masterfully Gillian Flynn manipulates readers with this classic he-said/she-said thriller. Along the way, we touch on identity, misrepresentation, perception and assumptions. Hold on for the ride!
Laurie: Hello! Chills and thrills and a whole lot of suspense from Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl!
Lora: I LOVED this book. Totally unputdownable (my new fave word!).
Alex: This was my first foray into thrillers.
Lora: Mine, too, Alex.
Alex: I was pleasantly surprised. I stupidly thought the quality of language would be sacrificed for the plot, but that was not the case. The character development and the details — it was just amazing.
Lora: I felt the same way. I never got into thrillers because I assumed, for some reason, that the writing wouldn’t be as sophisticated. But this book was brilliantly written.
Alex: Some of the observations were like poetry.
Laurie: She’s a great writer. She pulls everything together so meticulously. Especially with the plotting in the first half. And tackling the two voices so well. Ace.
Lora: As a fact checker, I really appreciated how meticulous every detail was, because every last little piece of the puzzle was so important to the plot development.
Alex: It is a bit freaky when you relate to subject matter about suspected murderers, though!
Laurie: Says something about you, Alex.….
Alex: I would love to know more about her process.
Laurie: She says she’s not good at plot, which is crazy, because it’s so much about the plot, (and the characters, obviously). She had notes all over the place, apparently, so many that it ended up that she didn’t even know what some of them meant when she looked at them after a while. (Like: Nick, napkin, bourbon. What???—I just made that up….)
Alex: Haha! I loved how much she manipulated my thoughts. I was totally putty in her hand.
Laurie: She’s a master manipulator!
Lora: She really is.
Laurie: Creepy, actually! What else is a writer but just that, though. Makes you look at them differently.
Alex: I began to think it was Nick when she started talking about his weird relationship with his sister. And then she made his sister Go seem really normal when she introduced Andie. So she was constantly swaying my impressions with new suggestions.
Laurie: It’s awesome what she does: She makes everyone seem creepy and off in turn. It real life and people’s impressions of others: If you ask 10 different people about the same person, you’ll get 10 different stories.
Lora: It made me stop and think about those snap judgments we make of people in the news. I was so convinced that things went down one way, then I was completely shocked halfway through. And once I got to the middle, I thought, “Well, this story has nowhere else left to go.” But she really does keep you so engaged throughout the whole story.
Alex: You’re right Lora, I felt exactly the same.
Laurie: Flynn always keeps us guessing. And everyone is unreliable in this book. It’s a study in unreliable narrators.
Alex: I also think it’s interesting that you still feel connected to the characters when your first instinct is to be utterly turned off by them.
Laurie: They’re both unlikable, Nick and Amy.
Alex: And Go and the neighbour Noelle.
Lora: Flynn was really good about giving each character their own little profile.
Laurie: There are great psychological studies. The book says interesting things about our perceptions of people, snap judgments, and gender. And Nick’s father is a great character.
Lora: So many people on the periphery, yet you always know who Flynn is referring to.
Alex: Totally. You even look at Amy’s lovely parents as creeps at some points.
Laurie: So true. But the perceptions are almost always filtered through others. And, of course, all are presented to us by Flynn. The neighours as seen by Amy. Amy’s parents as seen by Amy. Go as seen by Nick and Amy. Etc.
Alex: YES! It’s fascinating to see how differently our impressions are formed by how Flynn chooses to introduce us to them. And keeping tracks of those different realities because of how differently the characters see the world.
Lora: I would be interested to know how Flynn REALLY feels about each character.
Laurie: I just read a book called Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner that’s just brilliant, and it’s about how we represent ourselves to others and choose to represent ourselves, and that’s exactly what Gone Girl is all about: identity and representation, misrepresentation and misidentification.
Lora: I was fascinated by that—the idea of how easy it is for some people to just morph personalities.
Alex: And manipulation via personal and public thoughts.
Laurie: Others making you what they think you are. Lindsay Lohan pops into mind. Who knows who she really is anymore?
Alex: I assume I’m constantly being manipulated by the media.
Laurie: There is master manipulation going on on all levels in Gone Girl, and the reader gets to sit back, enjoy it and try to figure it out!
Lora: It’s crazy to think about how often this kind of scenario happens and how our opinions are IMMEDIATELY formed by those first few news stories.
Laurie: That’s why the whole innocent until proven guilty thing is so important.
Lora: It really is. That idea fades so quickly when the media is involved.
Alex: You are so right. It’s a situation you can’t help imagining yourself in….
Lora: I loved the Nancy Grace character.
Alex: They made it seem so real!
Laurie: All of it, the press conference, the TV show, etc., the way everything all played out, seemed very realistic. And incredibly frustrating. It was all so amazingly done. Kudos to Flynn!
Lora: I am a changed reader — I want more thrills and chills!
Alex: I think I’ve been spoiled for other thrillers. This one blew me away!
Laurie: Glad to hear it! Thanks for the chat, ladies! Next time we’ll be reading Susannah Cahalan’s memoir, Brain on Fire. An equally thrilling book about a bizarre real-life scenario! Talk to you then!
Lora: Can’t wait!