Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This was my post-Gulliver’s Travels palate-cleanser read, and for this purpose, it worked just fine. It engaged me to the point that the night I started the book, I stayed up reading until almost 3:30 am. I stopped when I found—within pages of one another—two inaccuracies that I took rather personally in my addled middle-of-the-night state.
The first was the oft-repeated “the rape never went to trial because she dropped the charges.” Maybe things are different in New York state, but in the two other states where I’ve learned about rape laws, this is not how it works. The plaintiff in a rape trial is the state, not the victim. The victim is a witness for the state. She/he can neither press charges nor drop charges, but merely reports the crime and provides physical evidence and testimony for the state against the defendant. The fact that the character who said this was an attorney especially annoyed me. Had it been a non-legal-type person, I could chalk it up to characterization. But since it’s from the mouth of an authority, I can only assume it’s Flynn’s mistake.
The other inaccuracy came from a character who’s not a professional in this particular field and so is a little easier for me to dismiss, but it still grates on me. The character uses a tourniquet on the character’s arm (sorry for the awkward wording; I’m trying not to use gendered pronouns so as not to spoil any of the plot). I did some fairly rudimentary training as a first responder back in my 20’s, and I remember being told that we should only place a tourniquet if the blood loss was bad enough that it was worth losing the limb. The paramedic who did our training explained that because a tourniquet is so effective at stopping blood flow, placing one pretty much guarantees the death of the limb below the tourniquet. He taught us how to use pressure on the arteries at different pulse points to staunch blood flow without the risk of the death of the limb. As the character intended to retain the use of this limb and there’s no evidence to suggest quick and significant blood loss, it would seem that a tourniquet wouldn’t be a good choice in this situation.
And then there was the twice-repeated insistence that an early-term fetus was a boy or a girl, something you can’t tell until nearly halfway through a pregnancy without genetic testing. This inaccuracy was probably the least annoying to me, though, because the character making the assertion of sex has no qualms about lying, so I could chalk it up to that.
Okay, so we’ve established that I take factual inaccuracies in literature pretty personally. But inaccuracies aside, this was a decent book. I’m not a huge fan of mysteries (especially ones that contain scenarios that are so air-tight no one can escape them…I just don’t find this kind of thing plausible), so I appreciated that Flynn used the novel as an opportunity to comment on the nature of romantic relationships and especially marriage. She brings up some very interesting points about the acts we put on in the pursuit of love and acceptance and the feeling of belonging. Flynn addresses issues of vulnerability and plays out dramatically the reasons why we so often fear opening ourselves up even though vulnerability is crucial for any close relationship. She’s essentially asked, “what’s the worst that can happen if I let myself be vulnerable?” and then given us many examples of just what can happen when we trust one another (spoiler alert: they’re largely not good things).
Flynn also addresses the issue of compromise in a marriage. I think it’s fairly widely accepted that a harmonious relationship requires give and take, and Flynn takes this idea to an extreme. What is the nature of unconditional love? What are we willing to give up for the sake of harmony? When do our differences become irreconcilable?
And then there’s what a marriage looks like from the outside compared to what it looks like from the inside. The private jokes we share and the little unspoken understandings that make up a close relationship sometimes look downright strange from the outside.
These commentaries about marriage were especially satisfying for me to read. I didn’t expect this kind of insight from a murder mystery; it was a pleasant surprise. I would have preferred if there had been more growth from the characters, but it was a fun read nonetheless. I also got a kick out of the characters being my age.