Hype, lived up to

As I rapidly approach what can only be called middle age (gulp), I do not think I am becoming more conservative in my personal or political views. If anything, I'm heading in the opposite direction. I am, however, developing a serious contrarian streak, which means if some book or movie is nearly universally praised by the people and media outlets to which I pay attention, a strong inner resistance kicks in. Which is why I haven't seen Brokeback Mountain, or The Artist. And why I haven't read Jonathan Franzen, or Ann Patchett. I would probably enjoy or be enlightened by them if I did. I just don't want to succumb to my own self-constructed framework of cultural peer pressure. Yeah, I know. That doesn't make any sense.

Fortunately, I had other reasons to take a look at Gillian Flynn's latest novel, Gone Girl, which is accomplishing that rare trifecta of critical acclaim, genre respect and bestseller status. I read her first novel, Sharp Objects, because a friend recommended it and because she was a writer for Entertainment Weekly, a magazine I like lot. Sharp Objects kept me up very late reading it, the very definition of a page-turner, even though its genre (thriller) isn't my usual thing.

Gone Girl, as you may have read in several other places, has the same page-turning quality but Flynn has gotten better, fiendish in her plotting and almost unbearably smart in her characterizations. The unbearable-ness comes from the points of view of the characters themselves, especially Nick Dunne, who is suspected of doing away with his wife, Amy, after she disappears on their fifth wedding anniversary. Nick's real-time first-person account is interspersed with entries from Amy's diary from the previous seven years, tracking their relationship from giddy courtship to cool New York City couple (with a lovely brownstone in, where else, Brooklyn) to their current less cool and unhappy post-recession residence in Nick's hometown of Carthage, Missouri.

Any plot spoilers would negate a lot of the reason to read this book so I'm going to stop here. All I'll say is I'm glad I had good reason to overcome my contrarian impulses and give this book a read. Especially if you like psychological suspense and even if that isn't your usual thing, it's worth it.