Finished Gone Girl: Good Excuse For A Literary Dork Out

I had to see what all the fuss was so I picked up Gone Girl on New Year’s Day, and I’d read all 415 pages by January 6. Now I am dying to talk about it.

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First, if I had known it was part of the crime fiction genre I never would have picked it up, because I hate crime fiction.  The only other crime fiction I have read was Presumed Innocent.  I’m still a little mad no one told me the genre, but now I have read the book, so I should probably let that go.

I won’t give anything away in case you plan to read it, but I will say this: How is it possible to love the book, but hate the characters?  I assume Gillian Flynn wants us to hate the characters, because the addictive pull of the story is how loathsome they are, but I can’t think of any other story where I loathed the characters, but ultimately loved reading the book.

At first I thought it was just me, but then I got a text from one of my favorite reading pals: “Hated both of the characters . . . . Loved the book.”

Silly me, I thought that a “great book” had to have characters that readers fell in love with.  Some of my favorite books have characters that I adore, see Charles Darnay, Holden Caufield, Hester Prynne, Jay Gatsby (though I am more of a Nick Carraway fan), and Sethe (from Beloved).

Conversely, I hated that stupid priss from Mill On The Floss, Raskolnikov gave me the heebee jeebees, and I wanted to punch Rabbit Angstrom in the kisser.  Thus, the books that birthed those characters do not appear on my “must read” lists.  Also, there were lots of Tudors that I hated so that makes Shakespeare a little thorny for me.

Ultimately, this is good news, though.  Here I am writing a book hoping that the love I feel for my characters will resonate with readers.  But hell, maybe you will hate them and still love my book enough to catapult me to the New York Times bestseller list. Now I don’t have to work so hard to make them appealing to readers.

Also, the ending of Gone Girl is controversial because apparently people hate it.  I loved it. It’s the only ending that makes sense for the characters. I didn’t find it unsatisfying, even though justice was not served.  It was chilling and frustrating, which is exactly how it should have been.

Have you read it? What did you think? Did you hate Amy and Nick Dunne? Who else do you hate in popular literature (besides Christian Grey and Ana Steele)?


50 thoughts on “Finished Gone Girl: Good Excuse For A Literary Dork Out

  1. I can’t read books with loathsome characters. I mean, I’ve read all the classics, and loathed the ones with shitty characters. And I can’t write books with bad characters (either badly drawn or just without goodness) . . . I mean, sure, a villain or two can be bad, but what’s the point of living with characters in your head or in your hands, so to speak, that you don’t want there? Was that even a sentence? Not enough coffee here. Hope you’re having a good morning. And nope, haven’t read Gone Girl.

      • Some of my characters scare the hell out of me, but that’s besides the point. I like a good character-driven novel like Beloved. Seth’s is beautiful and flawed – all that the same time. My favorite kind of read – and one of my favorite books. (Def in my top five.) Did you guys pick up on how I gave The Scarlet Letter a cameo in Little 15? In the cast list for the movie, I gave myself the role of the English teacher who pointedly questions Lauren about the social implications of the story. HA! And who says I can’t try my hand at acting, too??? LOL LOL LOL LOL

        Moving on … a piece of advice for all writers … if you take your antagonist out of the story and it collapses, that a good thing. A story can’t be built on good characters alone. 🙂

  2. I’m so excited since I got an amazon gift card and haven’t been motivated to read any new books! I’m downloading it immediately!!

  3. I guess I would file them under the “love to hate” category. And this was a book I couldn’t put down. I think the ending was fitting…as you said “justice”. Also I feel so smart having read a few of the same books as you. 🙂

  4. I read Gone Girl in two days, and stayed up until 4am one night to finish it. I, quite literally, couldn’t put it down. It’s funny because even though I hated Amy, I didn’t really hate Nick all that much. I just felt kind of blah about him. And I totally agree with you on the ending. I know its hugely controversial, but when I finished the book I thought about it for a long time, and ended up where you did. I can’t imagine how it could have ended any other way and still been authentic.

  5. There were times when her writing transfixed me, no lie. I would sit the book down and just say DAMN. And then I’d pick it right back up because HOW COULD I NOT? I did hate the ending. I thought there were other creative endings to be had (at the time I finished because um, I can’t remember them now but I know they exist[ed].) I love when there isn’t a clean-cut ending, love when things are all messy and incomplete. BUT. I felt like she got lazy. (Or, maybe it’s just that I really wanted to continue reading. That initial twist WHOOOOOO LAWD I WAS READING WHILE WALKING, COOKING, SHI…you get my point.)

  6. I read it last fall and felt the very same as you did about the characters and really liked the story. I think I did a review of it on Goodreads. I, too, loved the end! It is brilliant and the only one that “works”. So many people bitched about it that it should have been this or that. I thought it was spot on. I then read a Huff Post article where Flynn was interviewed. She didn’t give a rat’s ass if ANYONE liked or understood the ending. After thinking through every possible scenario, it was the only one completely true to the characters. I honestly haven’t and won’t look at an ending the same again. I read Sharp Objects over the holidays. That was barely a two day read and I think I liked it a smidge better than GG. It’s dark. Very dark. You will not like the characters but she tells a creepy good story! I’m waiting for Dark Places to come from Amazon. Actually, where the hell is it?

    • I will admit, Gina, that I had to read her other two. I LOVED Sharp Objects. I think, like you (surprise!), that I enjoyed it slightly more. I don’t need a tidy ending (of course I would have LIKED a tidy ending, especially for Sharp Objects because despite her, um, quirks? weirdness?, I really did like Camille.) It took me a little longer to finish Dark Places (not sure why.) You still aren’t gonna make me like Gone Girl’s ending though. Nope. I didn’t want it neat; I just wanted it…different.

      • I thought of a good alternative: what if Desi’s mom came after A and there was a scuffle where N had to come to terms with loving something about A. Nevermind. That sucks.

      • Ha. I always wonder that about Stephen King, if his wife eyes him sideways like asshole I know you’re thinking of how to accidentally lose me in the forest with rotten meat in my shoes so the wolves will track and eat me.

      • I know! Or what about writers who write so well about infidelity– like Zadie Smith or that guy who wrote that book about that affair….

        On Thu, Jan 10, 2013 at 2:12 PM, Outlaw Mama

  7. Can you send it to me? I hate killing trees but I am dying to read. I also love characters that other people hate (because I find them compelling), and hate characters that other people love (because I find them whiny and weak, even after they overcome), so it is also a matter of perspective.

  8. Stop it! Just STOP IT! Stop making me add things to my reading list! Grrrrr….now I have to move this one to the top of the list because I not only LOVE crime fiction, but I’m writing one for that genre. This definitely intrigued me!

  9. I loved Gone Girl and hated the characters, but was so intrigued by them and by all the twists that I never stopped to ponder how unusual it is to love a book/hate the characters. Good call. And we are definitely in the minority loving the ending. I thought it fit perfectly also. I love crime fiction and would love to write a book/screenplay in this genre some day. I’m just depraved enough to think of some naughty/crazy twists. Too bad Gillian (and everyone else) got there first! 😉

  10. I haven’t read Gone Girl (but it’s on the list!) I just wanted to applaud you mentioning a hatred of Christian Grey and Ana Steele. So, so hateful. Just seeing their names in print is enough to irritate me to the core of my being.
    Ok, carry on! 🙂

  11. Oooo I usually dislike the characters in Wally Lamb books but really like the books. It’s a little frustrating. This was especially true in “The Moment I First Believed”. I found the characters so aggravating (translation: imperfect and human). Interestingly, the characters from his books kinda stick with me. Maybe I DON’T hate them.

  12. Once I got to the “twist”, I simply couldn’t put it down. Yes, the characters were loathsome but it all just worked somehow. Although I have to admit, when A got robbed, I did a little happy dance. She was such a spoiled brat! But a crafty genius that one!

  13. I wonder how Gillian Flynn really does feel about her characters. I know that as I’m writing my book, I’ve got characters I love, and characters I get really frustrated with (incidentally, those are the characters in which I see more of myself). But I think an author really has to love something about her characters or else it comes out as a joke at their expense. I haven’t read Gone Girl yet – it was in our latest book splurge. Now I’ll definitely have to move it up in the line.

  14. Loved the book, hated them. Hated them. I thought the ending was, well, appropriate. It made sense. On another note, I am still pissed off at Gregor’s loathsome family in The Metamorphosis.

  15. I’ve never read this, but the hype is starting to pull me in. I almost have a desire to read it… Although I’m wary because the last time I went with the grain I read half of Fifty Shades of Grey before I realized it was something I just wasn’t going to be able to finish. I do love a GOOD crime thriller though… Lee Child is my current obsession. I start stop reading his novels. Hmmm… I may just have to give Gone Girl a try if you enjoyed it… I love your writing so I just might trust you on this!!

  16. I had this on my wishlist because it sounded interesting, but I didn’t know it was so long! I can’t get through a blog post without having to come back twice. Still curious though!

  17. Pingback: I Read 30 Books in 2013: Here’s a Review of 15 of ‘Em | Outlaw Mama

  18. I didn’t think of this book as being in the crime genre. In fact, I gave myself credit for stepping away from my usual book diet of detective/procedural/mystery novels. However, since a crime is at the center of the plot, I guess I’m going to have to concede your point.
    As for the ending, I wasn’t sure how I felt. Icky. Powerless. Angry. But I don’t think I would ask Flynn to change it.

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