Gone Girl


That’s the way to do it!

When I was in high school, I caught a late night showing of Mike Nichol’s 1966 film adaptation of Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” I knew nothing about the play or the film, but Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor were starring. They’d had a tempestuous, headline-grabbing relationship that I was dimly aware of. It was a warm summer evening and I had nothing better to do, so I settled in to watch.

It wasn’t long before I felt chilled and nearly sick. I remember quite clearly thinking, “What the hell am I watching?” as I watched George and Martha’s folie de deux.

Several hours into the Audible version of Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl”, I thought, “What the hell am I listening to?” I live in California, and, like that long ago evening with Burton and Taylor, it was a warm day – but I was cold, and my mouth tasted metallic, as if I’d bitten down on a bit of foil in a piece of Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum.

I knew something was wrong – terribly wrong – between Nick Dunne and his wife, Amy Elliott Dunne, but I didn’t know what.

Flynn doesn’t start to reveal what is wrong until halfway through the book. When she does, it’s like starting to eat a beautiful Golden Delicious apple, and discovering rot underneath – and then a squirming mass of maggots.

Flynn’s writing is compelling, detailed and evocative, and that makes the rotten core of the Dunne’s marriage incredibly shocking. Some of the language in the book is jarringly vulgar. The thoughts that language expressed were true to the character that said them, and one of the first indications that character did not think like other people.

This is the first audio book I’ve listened to where a split male/female narration not only worked, it enhanced the story. Kirby Heybonne was a smug, arrogant Nick Dunne. Julia Whelan was Amy Dunne, beginning with cloying (and unchanging) naïveté of Becca Battoe’s Anastasia Steele in E.L. James “Fifty Shades” series. Whelan’s narration changed with her character, and so did Heybonne’s.

This isn’t a book for those lucky, cheerful, hopeful optimists who live by Facebook posts on the power of love. It’s not a book for horror fans who safely relegate terror to demons summoned by a ‘Book of the Dead’, a la “Evil Dead” 2013. This book is for those who know that real people can be terrifying, and can do utterly horrible things. Those people are the people of Simon Baron-Cohen’s “The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty,” 2011.

The Audible book is about 19 hours long, and it’s a compelling way to pass a long drive. Sleep isn’t possible when listening.

In case you are wondering, the title of the review is a line from “Gone Girl”, quoting a line from a different source.

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