There’s a little book called Gone Girl that’s been flying under the radar. I’m surprised more of you haven’t heard of it. Only 20 or 30 people recommended it to me, but I decided to give it a go anyway, and I’m glad I did. It’s nice to help out an unknown author now and then, and this was a real page turner.
Ok, in all seriousness, I did enjoy Gone Girl, but nobody wants to read yet another recap of the first two chapters or listen to me skate around any spoilers just in case someone out there is even more behind the curve than I am. But I did want to mention two aspects/techniques used in this novel that I appreciated: the non-ending and the unreliable narrator.
Now I know some people didn’t like the ending of Gone Girl, but to me it fit. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Gillian Flynn said she doesn’t think people who wanted or expected a certain type of ending would necessarily have been satisfied with it, and I have to agree. To me, the question mark at the end of a journey has a way of staying with me much longer than a solid conclusion. To make a comparison with two popular films, the end of Fatal Attraction may have momentarily satisfied the audience’s thirst for justice, but personally, I didn’t think much about it after I left the theater. No Country for Old Men, on the other hand, crept into my brain and settled there, tugging at my imagination, making me wonder what was next and why we didn’t see justice. Tastes vary and I know plenty of people would like to see something else, but I truly hope when the Hollywood adaptation is made executives don’t rewrite for a “happier” ending. I also hope Flynn never writes a sequel, because to me, the worst thing you can do to a “what next” ending is to follow it up with the answer.
After finishing this book, I started to think about how much I enjoy reading from the point of view of an unreliable narrator. I love hearing a character’s story unfold and coming to realize that there is more, or less, to the story than I am hearing. Is the narrator lying? Crazy? Both? Is he mildly delusional or full-on psychotic? Is she ill, sad, evil, or merely misguided? Figuring that part out is just as interesting to me as uncovering the truth. The best novels that use this technique are the ones where the author never actually spells out the inconsistencies but provides just enough information for the reader to be able to piece it together on her own: Arthur Phillip’s The Egyptologist is one of my favorites. I think that’s why the first third of Gone Girl was the most fun for me—picking up gaps in Nick’s story and questioning why he was leaving out details and wondering to myself what I was supposed to think was engaging and suspenseful. Part two spells everything out, which is a little disappointing, but the switch in tone is earned. Flynn writes convincingly in at least three different voices, which is fun for a novel with only two narrators.
The unreliable narrator is a popular technique, and it’s one I can’t get enough of when done well. Fight Club, The Cask of Amontillado, and An Instance of the Fingerpost are all great examples. I would love to hear form you, fellow Cannonballers, about your favorite unreliable narrators so I can add them to my reading list.