Books Every Woman Should Read: Gone Girl
IT’S almost two years since Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl rocketed up the book charts. With a movie on the way, it might be time to revisit what all the fuss is about.
Nick and Amy Dunne are a young married couple living in his home town in the American mid-west. A New Yorker from a wealthy family, Amy agreed to move to Missouri after the couple were made redundant and Nick’s mother was diagnosed with cancer. From the outside, their marriage seems happy. But then, Amy disappears and suspicion falls on Nick.
It’s a tight, well-crafted thriller and damn near unputdownable. Without revealing too much, there are some marvellous and shocking twists, calling into question how much anyone can truly know their spouse. It’s also an interesting read from a woman’s point of view. Flynn found herself labelled a ‘misogynist’ after releasing Gone Girl and its predecessor, Sharp Objects, which detailed a destructive mother-child relationship. The woman herself has hit back at the claims, writing an article entitled ‘I Was Not a Nice Little Girl’ for US bookstore, Powell’s, following the publication of Sharp Objects.
“I particularly mourn the lack of female villains — good, potent female villains. Not ill-tempered women who scheme about landing good men and better shoes (as if we had nothing more interesting to war over), not chilly WASP mothers (emotionally distant isn’t necessarily evil), not soapy vixens (merely bitchy doesn’t qualify either),” she wrote. “I’m talking violent, wicked women. Scary women. Don’t tell me you don’t know some. The point is, women have spent so many years girl-powering ourselves — to the point of almost parodic encouragement — we’ve left no room to acknowledge our dark side. Dark sides are important. They should be nurtured like nasty black orchids.”
It’s hard to argue. While we are often told that if women ran the world, there would be world peace (apart from a couple of countries not talking to each other, to paraphrase Terry Pratchett), history has not always borne this out. While murder and violent crime is often associated with men, it’s not unheard of for a woman to be an unrepentant killer – Aileen Wuournos, Myra Hindley and our own Catherine Nevin are examples that spring to mind.
Society still has a hard time getting its head around the concept that not all women are nurturing or good or that they are capable of evil deeds. It is disingenuous to suggest that we are always the fairer sex or that a writer who points out women’s misdeeds is a misogynist. If we want true equality with men, we must acknowledge that we can be equally awful.
Flynn concludes her article by mentioning her favourite photo; ‘Livia’ taken in 1948 by Frederick Sommers. A young girl, no more than eight, dressed in the trappings of mid-century girlhood, looks at the camera with a challenging, almost-contemptuous expression. It is a reminder that “women can be bad”, as the author writes.
Gone Girl is an entertaining read, and a chilling reminder of just how bad we can be.
Photos c/o wikipaintings.org, collider.com