Gone Girl Audio Book: Are You Hearing What I’m Hearing?
So I just finished
reading listening to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and let me say baaad idea. Normally I wouldn’t spell bad with three As but somehow this felt warranted. My biggest bone of contention isn’t with the story itself, (mind you, this isn’t going to be a glowing review by any stretch) but rather the medium in which I consumed it. It started off well enough; the wife and I had a long car ride over the Thanksgiving weekend and nothing kills the hours of driving like listening to a mystery unfold. I find audio books work best for long trips or repetitive chores like painting a room or doing housework, but most times I’d prefer to read. After the trip we were 5 hours into the story and only had a measly 14 hours 11 minutes to go. Ya, if you did the math, that’s 19 hours and 11 minutes of repetitive did he or didn’t he/ he said – she said? (Let the spoilers begin)
At the core of Gone Girl is a clash of perspectives. We get the man/ woman perspective, husband/wife perspective, urbanite/suburbanite perspective, no spin/ media perspective and the real you / perceived you perspective.This is both the greatest strength and weakness of Gone Girl and listening to the audio really brings this to the surface. The narration duties are split in two by Julia Whelan voicing Amy and Kirby Heyborne voicing Nick. This was great at first, but as the hours passed listening; it became more and more grating. The problem being: both Amy and Nick spend half their time imitating the other, so in the end you are listening to a man do a sarcastic nagging woman’s voice and a woman doing a monotone bitter man’s voice. I can see it reading better in the book as it highlights the gaps of knowledge and presumptions even married couples can have with one another, but as a listening experience it became painful and editorial. I don’t blame the voice actors for this; they both did a tremendous job, but rather the material they were working with. Their inflections and delivery affected the way I perceived the characters a little too much and in the end I felt like I was being led around by the nose. Audio books can live or die by their narrators. It is often said that authors usually make for terrible narrators. In the end, I think I would have preferred my internal narrator, but even so that might have been a stretch.
Gillian Flynn created two extremely unlikable characters in Amy and Nick. Nick has deluded himself into thinking he’s a good guy but falls short in every respect while Amy is just amazing, but not in a good way. Flynn wears these characters like puppets to spill out social commentary and pop cultural references that serve her more as an author than complete the characters overall make-up. In a story with two distinct voices already vying for dominance -three’s a crowd. She does a great job addressing the obvious trial by media observations along with the death of print media, but comes on a little too strong with her backwoods moron from Sheboygan treatment of anyone who doesn’t live in a city or doesn’t wear irony like a pair of over-sized glasses. The cultural rift Nick and Amy experience when moving to the small town highlights their shortcomings, but perhaps a little too much emphasis might have been given to the idea of cool.
Speaking of cool; the ‘cool girl speech’ Amy gives, stands out like a sore thumb. It stands out for two reasons: it’s a lie masquerading as the truth and it is misogyny masquerading as feminism. The story of Amy and Nick is accurate in the respect that when two people are pursuing one another in a serious relationship they tend to be hyper versions of themselves. They go the extra mile to impress and are willing to be challenged by their partner all in the hopes that their efforts may lead to a permanent commitment. Once the permanent relationship has been secured, efforts may fall off -a little or a lot. When you introduce the ‘cool girl’ into this mix, it panders too heavily to the male fantasy and the balance of power becomes too lop-sided. Although we know Amy is an extreme personality with psychopathic tendencies we get the idea that Flynn’s trying to make a point with this speech. Is she pointing out how ridiculous this approach is or is she stating a fact as she sees it? Gone Girl deals with the role women play in society and especially marriage. Amy is transplanted to a place not of her choosing but by marital obligation and without the distraction of work or the big city she focuses her energies on new projects. It is the over the top version of the bored housewife. In the end (major spoiler) Amy gets everything she wants and all her deeds go unpunished. Her behaviour and actions are vindicated and Nick has been rendered impotent.
Gone Girl does a good job of stringing you along revealing the right amount of information at the right time to keep you interested. At times, it is a hard hitting exposé on marriage and relationships and at others; its nuggets of wisdom are mired in hyperbole and hypocrisy. If I were to do it again, I’d definitely read the book rather than listen to the audio or maybe save myself 16 hours and just go see the movie.