Reading Gone Girl: worth it?
January 4, 2015 9:06 PM   Subscribe

Just watched Gone Girl. Found it good, not great. Worth it to read the book to fill in some of the details, timelines, etc? Also, a spoileriffic question below the fold.

First the question: what could Amy have been charged with, if she hadn't killed that guy? Is framing someone for a murder that didn't happen a crime? Probably a civil liability, sure, but must be something criminal too, right?

That's partially what prompted me to possibly read it: contingencies that Fincher didn't have time for. The planning part was the most fascinating; I wanted to examine the calendar.
posted by supercres to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't seen the movie so take this with a grain of salt, but I loved the SHIT out of that book. And knowing what you know about the plot will certainly lessen the impact of the book, possibly to the point where it loses a ton of its luster, but it's one of the most deliciously-crafted, manipulative pieces of writing I've ever had the pleasure to read. I say give it a go.
posted by ORthey at 9:20 PM on January 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Can't answer the question because I read the book while there was a bunch of stuff going on in my life so I'd have to go and check, but yeah, lets just say I had days when I was tired and out of my effing mind but that book still kept me up reading at night. Read it.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 10:11 PM on January 4, 2015

Best answer: There's not much reason not to read the book; it's a quick read and if you get it from the library it's free. OTOH I disliked it tremendously, both because it *is* manipulative (in a bad way, for me) and because I hated all the characters.
posted by asterix at 10:12 PM on January 4, 2015 [17 favorites]

Best answer: The calendar is more of a movie prop and not really part of the book at all, but there are a lot of details and entire characters that the movie leaves out. I plowed through the entire book yesterday and watched the movie last night, and I enjoyed the book much more.
posted by makonan at 10:23 PM on January 4, 2015

I didn't see the movie. I read the book and turned the pages quickly--it is unquestionably a page-turner. But, like asterix, I really did not like it. It was too long and once I figured out how it was going to end, I just got depressed.
posted by gubenuj at 10:30 PM on January 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I read the book before I saw the movie, so from that perspective:

Gillian Flynn is a very good writer, with smooth readable prose and a strong command of language. Amy's history is much better explored -- she's done the kind of thing she does to Nick before on a smaller scale, which makes it feel as though it comes less out of the blue. Nick's father plays a bigger role, which explains a lot about Nick and Margo and their close sibling relationship that the movie glides over. Desi becomes less of a cypher. Both Amy and Nick are even less likeable than in the movie, but the novel does this kind of amazing trick by making you (or me, at least) root for Amy despite all the awful things she's done. Truly, I would read it just for that; it's remarkably well done.
posted by Georgina at 10:36 PM on January 4, 2015 [10 favorites]

Best answer: I saw the movie first and then read the book, and was totally happy with my decision. The movie was fantastic, in my opinion, and revisiting the same story in book form allowed me to appreciate the voice of the characters more. Flynn put together a novel with a really intelligent voice, and I loved discovering the differences between the movie and the book.
posted by redsparkler at 10:48 PM on January 4, 2015

Best answer: If I remember correctly, the book also left some questions unanswered, so it's not like the book tied up all the endings neatly, or fill in every single details that seems to be missing or grossed over in the movie.

I read the book, then watch the movie. It doesn't make sense to compare the two, since they are different creations. However, I found the book to be more entertaining and interesting, so I do recommend you read the book, not for filling in details but just for the enjoyment of a well crafted story.
posted by applesurf at 12:39 AM on January 5, 2015

Best answer: I read the book and then saw the movie, and my general feeling is that they are very, very similar -- far more so than many book-to-movie adaptations. There are some additional elements in the book that don't make it into the movie, but the major plot points are all there and the major characters all behave in the same ways. I don't think reading the book adds much to the movie experience, nor is there a lot more detail about the planning. It's a quick read, though, so it's not like you're sacrificing much by picking it up.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:59 AM on January 5, 2015

Best answer: the novel does this kind of amazing trick by making you (or me, at least) root for Amy despite all the awful things she's done

That was not my experience at all. I hated both book Amy and movie Amy.

I liked the movie much more than the book and think you did the right thing to see the movie first. Once you read the book you'll see what things were left out or compressed in the movie.

Gillian Flynn is a very good writer

Yes, she is, which still makes me wonder why she employed such a cheap, gimmicky maneuver in the book. It's my theory that she wrote the book the way she did specifically with the intention of it being made into a film.

they are very, very similar -- far more so than many book-to-movie adaptations

Gillian Flynn wrote the screenplay.
posted by fuse theorem at 5:30 AM on January 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

I haven't seen the movie, but I thought the book was the most flat-out mean-spirited thing I'd ever read. It just made me feel dirty and cheap to follow characters who were so venomous toward each other, and that venom seemed to permeate everything else so much that it wasn't charming at all.

I mean, at this point you probably SHOULD read it because you'll always wonder what it's like if you don't, and it exists. Hell, I made myself read The DaVinci Code. But you should probably have, like, a really cozy happy Regency (where the only thing wrong is a lack of suitable crumpets) available within arm's reach. I needed a palate-cleanser immediately.
posted by Madamina at 6:01 AM on January 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

I read the book (meh), saw the movie, anyway. They are very similar, but I've noticed that people who only saw the movie thought she was warped and her husband was more-or-less a victim.

The book makes it clear that they were meant for each other.
posted by she's not there at 7:01 AM on January 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

The book gave me better insight into Nick's discomfort with the media and had much more of a "it could go any way" feeling to it. He's less of a saint in the book. I don't think they deserved each other, Amy was still a piece of work, but it shows Nicks misogynistic family background and thus rounds out his character too.

That being said the book made me physically ill. I got the sense that Ms. Flynn hates women or resents being a woman or something and wrote this book to spew her bile. She bitched about "cool girls" but Nick's sister Margo is a total cool girl. I think it's a good book to read because of the public discourse on expectations of each gender's performance but it's a seriously fucked up book, be warned.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:16 AM on January 5, 2015

Best answer: If all her ahead-of-time shenanigans had gotten out, and if someone powerful (i.e. not Boney) had cared enough, they could have gotten her on obstruction of justice. That's a crime.

I read the book first, then saw the movie, and it really is a very close adaptation. They get a lot of tonal stuff (like the Dunnes' McMansion!) exactly right. I found book Amy more likeable in the beginning (that is, the fake diary entries) than movie Amy, which makes her even more hateable in the end. Her self-presentation is a little grittier. There are also a very few more delicious little pieces of advance planning in the book that there just wasn't time for in the movie. (Hint: yet another Tupperware'o'Secrets in the fridge.) And the book is just very fun to read -- it really comes across that both narrators are career writers and know how to put themselves across in words.

I also found it exhilarating rather than bile-inducing. I liked that Flynn took all these negative characteristics that are usually used to trivialize women (emotional manipulation, attention to detail, perfectionism, etc.) and made them basically a superpower. Nick's problem isn't that he resents Amy, because obviously Amy is a terrible person; it's that he thinks that he's unhappy because he's married to just any boring, aging, unpleaseable woman, when in actuality he's married to a Batman supervillian and hasn't noticed. It's like "Oh, you think women are manipulative bitches? I'll show you what a real manipulative bitch would look like . . ."
posted by ostro at 7:52 AM on January 5, 2015 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I have yet to see the film.

Like asterix and St. Peepsburg, I found the book repulsive, however well-written. I feel like I was manipulated into buying it, in ways I can't put my finger on - of course marketing made buying it seem like a good idea, and all books are marketed, but I can't shake the feeling, even now, that the author thinks she's got my number and has somehow put one over on me by getting me to read it from start to finish.

I think it's because the book places incredible emphasis on trial by media; at one point, Nick tells the policewoman with total self-assurance that he's got it covered, just before he interviews someone involved in the case, and I feel like the author might share Nick's journalistic self-satisfaction. He then goes on to be entirely spineless about telling his side of the story, and allows himself to be sabotaged in a way that a child could see through.

The ease with which Amy manipulates the forensics, presumably because (like the rest of us) she's watched CSI, also leaves a bad taste in my mouth for reasons I can't put my finger on and which go beyond just not liking the bad guy to get away with it (I'm an NBC Hannibal diehard, ffs). To give an example, nobody ever examines the inks Amy uses to write her diaries, even though inks are identifiable by year.

Then to combine the worst of both worlds, Amy's trump card is a piece of forensic evidence that wouldn't even be usable, wouldn't prove anything if it were, and yet she successfully intimidates Nick with it. It's like Dumb and Dumber with personality disorders instead of low IQs.

And all that is perfectly fair game in terms of storytelling and is probably how these things usually work, I just can't shake the feeling that the author thinks the joke is on the reader, and it's honestly pretty irrelevant to how good the book is.

Anyway, as for "is anything Amy did a criminal offence, aside from the murder" - not sure how it works in the USA, but for example John Stonehouse, a British MP, faked his own death and split for Australia and was jailed for his antics, so there's that.

Offering and preparing false evidence is a criminal offence in California, at least.
posted by tel3path at 8:22 AM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

I am not a fan of fiction writing generally. However, two good friends of mine urged me to read Gone Girl (before the movie came out) -- SO glad they did! Now that I've seen the movie too, I have to say that the book is much better. There is a lot more detail and side/back stories that fill in the nuances of everyone's actions. There's a lot more about the planning and the small details. I also found it much less of a male-friendly telling of the story than movie was, and some of the best writing I've read with respect to (some) women's internal monologues. I'm obsessed with the Cool Girl monologue.

You're not supposed to like Amy -- you may identify with her from time to time, or with Diary Amy, or you might want her to get away with it, but she is supposed to be a messed up person. That's part of why the book/author is so popular -- there are very few depictions (let alone well-written depictions) of women who are pathologically evil. Not just, oh my ex wife is a bitch and these two women are catty to each other, but rather someone who is truly a psychopath.

I also recommend reading Flynn's two other books, Sharp Objects and Dark Places. They weren't quite as engrossing as Gone Girl, in my opinion, but good stories nonetheless.
posted by melissasaurus at 11:27 AM on January 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

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