I've always had great appreciation for writers and books in general, but the book Gone Girl gave me a deeper appreciation for the effort that goes into book-writing. Some authors do not receive the recognition they deserve and I feel Gillian Flynn is one of them. Gone Girl is her third book and I couldn't help but wonder how I could have missed this author and her books for so long. Her first novel Sharp Objects, was the winner of the two CWA Dagger awards and was shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger Award, and for an Edgar. Her second, Dark Places, was published to great critical acclaim. Her novels have been published in 28 countries. After getting to know all this, my guilt was forcing me to come up with some explanation about how I missed taking cognizance of such a wonderful author. I think was probably in a temporary stupor or literary lull around the time her novels got released. There is no other sane explanation I can think of!
Coming to Gillian's third novel, Gone Girl, I am embarrassed to say that I hadn't read the book when I went to watch the movie. But in a way, that was a good thing now that I think about it. The movie was so different with a never-heard-before plot, that it left me totally flabbergasted. Usually I hate reading the book after watching its movie version because reading the book when you know the plot is quite boring and takes away the suspense element. But in this case, as an avid reader and an aspiring writer, even after watching the movie, I was keen on reading the book as part of my literary research to learn how such a convoluted and different story could be communicated effectively to the readers. Most books bring out the flat and one-sided communication approach, but a story like 'Gone Girl' needs a multi-dimensional approach in story telling because the author needs to anticipate the questions in the minds of the readers and answer them before they even ask. It takes great story telling skills and an understanding of the readers' perspective to come up with this kind of a story, and reading her endless list of acknowledgements (on the last few pages of the book) made me even more convinced that Gillian had actually put in so much of thought into the facts around the plot and storyline, making the story even more endearing.
I am not here to laud or demean Amy Elliott Dunne, or 'Amazing Amy', the protagonist in the novel; I am here to laud Gillian's story telling skills. The cover of the book itself says, 'The addictive No.1 Bestseller', which reminds me of one of my recent Tweets while I was reading the book. It read,
'#GoneGirl unputdownable! ;) I'm in the middle of work, responding to an email and I'm like, let me quickly read one more chapter! God help me!'
Note that this is after I had seen the movie and know the plot! If a book can do that to a person who has already seen the movie, there is no doubt that we have a clear winner!
The book is much more elaborate than the movie, with a lot more of interesting elements. It reminds me of those Harry Potter movies, where there is always a conflict between the book readers and the movie buffs. As an avid reader, I truly believe that the book is far better than the movie, but the movie is not so bad either. The team was able to do justice to the movie, primarily because Gillian herself has written the screenplay for the movie. Within the constraints of the movie setting, I feel she has done a great job of portraying as much as she could. All the not-so-relevant characters and some background information is omitted without affecting the main storyline or the plot. That's what makes the movie very powerful and riveting.
The book brings out the perspectives of both Nick Dunne and his wife Amy Elliott separately, and helped me understand both the characters better. Understanding a person by just looking at his/her face or expressions is very difficult and in many places, I felt the book gave me a clearer picture of Nick's mental state than the movie. The book alternates between Nick's and Amy's versions of the same story, and gives the readers their own sweet time to conclude whether they want to stand up for Nick or Amy. In the initial stages of the book, the readers are invariably drawn towards Amy and her powerful version of the story. Some might even start equating Nick to a moron, who seems to be using Amy and her money for his own benefits, treats her like a use-and-throw sex object, and then cheats on her with a much younger and cuter student of his! Nick Dunne is definitely the villain in Part One: Boy Loses Girl, but as the story continues, the readers start doubting their instincts as they move on to the second section, which is Boy meets Girl. That's where Amy becomes her actual self and starts talking about what she had done to Nick and why. At this juncture, compared to Amy, Nick is a lamb! In the third and final part, Boy gets the Girl back (or vice versa), Amy comes back to Nick with a heart-warming story and a wicked smile (which only Nick can recognize). My own exposure to both the book and the movie makes me feel that the movie is a very concise version of the book, but the book is truly beautiful!
Another instance where I found the book to be better is where it introduces the readers to the character Desi Collings played by NPH (Neil Patrick Harris) in the movie. After watching the movie, I was pretty disturbed by the way Amy kills Desi, and I couldn't quite comprehend why she would go to such an extend without a good enough reason. That is where the book helped me understand Amy's thought process (which is not very clear in the movie). As per the book, Amy was feeling trapped inside Desi's house; he wouldn't give her any money or offer her any option of getting out. She felt like the bird stuck in a golden cage; she felt suffocated! Desi knows so much about her, her background and the fact that she can't go back, that he even goes to the extend of sugar-coating a threat that he would go to the police if she ever manages to escape from his clutches as his way of showing concern. Amy's initial plan did not involve getting trapped in someone's house like this, but the fact that she is stuck in a house with security cameras all around watching each and every move of hers made her psychotic. As you can imagine, coming up with a detailed plan to kill someone and executing it with crystal clear precision is her innate talent! She plots to create evidence against Desi, kills Desi (in style!), escapes from there, and finally attempts to get back to her husband and lead a normal life.
The beauty of this book is that it is full of twists; the story is riveting right from the beginning till the end! Gillian has given the space for all the characters to grow and flourish in the minds of the readers before involving them in the real plot. For example, even after such meticulous planning, Amy's initial plan doesn't work out the way she expects it to, and she ends up being on the road with no money and no way of sustaining her life. But Gillian made sure that Amy is flexible enough to deviate from her original plan, and take life head-on once again. I also love the fact that Gillian didn't just stop with just one plot or one side of the story; she ensured that the whole story is believable and realistic (who knows, Amy could just be one of your neighbours).
The books also throws some light on Amy's upbringing which had a huge role in making Amy the person she is today. Amy's previous successful attempts at exacting revenge on 2 or more occasions (one, her former classmate, and another, her ex-lover), are all testimonials to the fact that the Amy of today is a result of the slow and ever-growing manifestation of her darker side, right from her childhood days. While the reader still feels that Amy is innately bad, Gillian has tried to highlight Amy's thought process, her musings and reasonings in an attempt to help readers to develop a feeling of empathy towards Amy.
One look at her pretty face, one word out of her mouth, and you'll forget all about her psychotic shenanigans.
In short, Gillian has been successful in creating an endearing, while utterly intimidating character called Amy, the character that will remain in the minds of all its readers as one of the most psychotic characters that they've ever come across. Gillian's hard work and effort to make the story as close to reality as possible, has paid off, making it one of the most shocking but relatable stories ever!