Of closures and lack thereof: A Book Review on Gone Girl

I like books that have concrete endings. It bothers me when a book is open-ended. I must say, though, that those with vague endings are the ones that really get me to thinking for quite a while. A few months ago, I read Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl.” It seemed to have a closure but not quite. It is an intense, multi-layered novel that left me wondering what happened beyond that last page.

The Story

“Gone Girl” paints the picture of a miserable marriage that turned into a vicious vendetta. Nick and Amy Dunne have been married for five years. On their fifth anniversary, Amy goes missing. Amy is much loved by the people around her. She was the inspiration behind the Amazing Amy book series written by her parents. She was a poster child and trophy wife, so to speak. Just like in any crime investigation, the husband is the first suspect when the wife disappears.

gonegirl

Nick is unable to prove his innocence in the first half of the book. He narrates his side of the story in the first chapter then Amy gives her side via journal entries on the next. The back-and-forth narration continues until the big twist happens halfway through the novel. Nick’s poker face before the media, suspicious spending of her trust fund, increased life insurance policy of his wife, and hidden affair put him in a bad light. His guilt becomes so undeniable with mounting evidences sealing his fate slowly but surely.

Amy, on the other hand, is secretly watching all the media mayhem from an isolated motel. She has successfully faked her death and framed her cheating husband. In an unfortunate turn of events, Amy’s newfound friends stole all her cash and left her with nothing. She then sought the help of an old flame who almost worships her. He becomes overly protective to the point of locking her in. The posh mansion becomes a prison that Amy escapes by murdering his poor knight and shining armor. Amy is a crafty liar who leaves no loose ends to prove her guilt.

The story ends with Nick and Amy getting back together in their dysfunctional marriage where each one of them is treading on treacherous ground, moving chess pieces, pulling the strings, until their marriage reaches its inevitable end whatever that may be.

Review

Gillian Flynn created a web of lies and deceit in this novel. Nick excels in lies of omission while Amy puts grandeur and perfection in lying. It’s a story that involves layers of hidden agendas, intricate treachery, and misleading clues.

As a reader, it kept me guessing to the very end. Nick shows innocence and guilt throughout the novel. Meanwhile, Amy’s dark side will catch you by surprise. Her careful planning and perfect execution is both admirable and appalling. From the outside looking in, you will see the daily woes of married life. The lack of communication, boredom, and unmet expectations can slowly erode a once happily-ever-after marriage.

Gillian Flynn

Gillian Flynn

It is a noir mystery novel on steroids with fingerprints everywhere but pointing nowhere. My search for truth has never been more complex and challenging with this book. In the end, it is a very satisfying yet cumbersome read. Knowing that Nick and Amy are back together didn’t settle nicely with me. If you have a philandering husband and a psycho wife, would you want to be in that marriage? Yet, irony of ironies, they complemented each other and brought out the best and worst in themselves when they’re together.

Amy had these to say about their marriage:

“We weren’t ourselves when we fell in love, and when we became ourselves – surprise! – we were poison. We complete each other in the nastiest, ugliest possible way.”

“All this time I’d thought we were strangers, and it turned out we knew each other intuitively, in our bones, in our blood. It was kind of romantic. Catastrophically romantic.”

Though I think Nick said it best:

“Yes, I am finally a match for Amy. The other morning I woke up next to her, and I studied the back of her skull. I tried to read her thoughts. For once I didn’t feel like I was staring into the sun. I’m rising to my wife’s level of madness. Because I can feel her changing me again: I was a callow boy, and then a man, good and bad. Now at last I’m the hero. I am the one to root for in the never-ending war story of our marriage. It’s a story I can live with. Hell, at this point, I can’t imagine my story without Amy. She is my forever antagonist.

We are one long frightening climax.”

I would’ve preferred that they either parted ways or genuinely reconciled. I like that kind of closure. Gillian Flynn refused to give me that. Instead, she masterfully allowed me to wander and wonder how Nick and Amy’s marriage will thrive or survive. Oh and there’s a baby on the way, which can either be their saving grace or the loose wire that burns them altogether. So yes, it’s worth reading and watching on October 2014 when it hits the big screen. 🙂

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Revisiting the Cemetery of Forgotten Books

After more than a decade of waiting, my reader radar sounded its deafening alarm, alerting me that Carlos Ruiz Zafón finally released “Prisoner of Heaven,” the sequel to his epic book “Shadow of the Wind!” So I did what every eager beaver bookworm does, I went to the nearest bookshop and grabbed a copy of “Prisoner of Heaven.” I feel like I’m the 10-year-old Daniel Sempere, the protagonist in “Shadow of the Wind,” holding one precious book from the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. This time, I’m holding its sequel! I read the book in roughly five hours but divided into two days (had to squeeze it in between my mommy duties). I was actually surprised that the book was only 278 pages long!

Before I move on with my review, let me just say that if you haven’t read “Shadow of the Wind” then you’re missing out on one of the best modern literary books of all time. Zafón has probably mastered the art of Gothic fiction. His three books in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series—The Angel’s Game, Shadow of the Wind, and Prisoner of Heaven—are all filled with mystery, intrigue, noir, and unbridled romance.

The Story

“Prisoner of Heaven” follows the life of Daniel Sempere who is now married to Beatriz. He continues to manage the Sempere & Sons bookstore with his father and his close friend Fermin Romero de Torres. It was Christmas time and sales were not picking up in the Sempere bookshop. The seemingly uneventful season became alive when a grim-looking stranger appeared at the store. He bought the most expensive book and left it for Fermin with a strange dedication:

For Fermin Romero de Torres,

who came back from among the dead

and holds the key to the future.

This ominous visit led to a series of discoveries about Fermin’s life at the Montjuïc prison. Zafón’s description of this Spanish version of Alcatraz somewhat reminded me of Christopher Nolan’s “The Pit” in Dark Knight Rises. In this isolated no-escape prison, Fermin’s story intersected with the lives of two mysterious prisoners—the prolific writer David Martin and the guile Sebastian Salgado. He also came face to face with the vile prison governor Mauricio Valls and was even used against his will to extract information from the two inmates. The sinister events at Montjuïc prison later on unveiled the story behind the death of Daniel’s mother Isabella.

The novel ends with a cliff hanger that begs for the fourth and final installment in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series.

Review

You might probably be wondering what it is about Zafón’s novel that’s worth reading. For me, his pervasive storyline that highlights the significance books and the relevance of writers to society is what made me swoon over his books. I believe every bibliophile should read one of his novels!

Now back to my two cents worth. Filled with secrets from the dark alleys of Barcelona, “The Prisoner of Heaven” is a novel of truth and deception, love and lies, corruption and integrity, survival and demise. It’s like peeling off an old wallpaper to find out the original painting behind it and discovering that there’s so much more to the image you exposed.

There are certain authors that have a distinct voice and Zafón is one of them. As I was reading this novel, I knew that I was reading raw Zafón. I can only imagine how beautiful it must be to read his novels in Spanish! His narration and descriptions reminded me so much of “Shadow of the Wind” and “The Angel’s Game.” The way he romanticized the landscape of Barcelona while juxtaposing its lurking darkness was enthralling. The riveting suspense was addicting to the point where you’d feel the urge to eat all the remaining pages of the novel.

The ending was a total prequel to the final installment in the series. My head was screaming for a closure but then that’s what penultimate novels are supposed to do. I don’t know how long I’ll wait again for the sequel but I’m sure it’s worth the last trip to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books.