The Girl Who Chose the Dark Side

I first started reading Gone Girl back in 2013. I had read about 200 pages then I had to stop. My just-bruised mind could not take the unsettling tone of the book. Isn’t love supposed to have a happy ending? A happily ever after. Isn’t that what marriage means? Gone Girl offered nothing to slather healing lotion over my mutilated faith. So I had stopped.

Cut to 2016. Four years have passed. My life did not change much, but one, just one but a big change has happened. The psycho fuck virus is out of my living, breathing existence. It no longer lives in my mind rent-free. So I started reading the book again. Picked up where I had left it. This time it did not bother me that much – the dark, morbid nature of the story. Perhaps it was so because I’m not so lonely anymore. It is difficult to breathe in the fictitious world of darkness and melancholy with so much suffocating loneliness in reality. One must have someone to vent it all out. Kind of like a periodical reassurance. Will you give me a forever and always? A happy one? Yes baby, I will. Reading resumed.

Gillian Flynn’s books are not recommended for those who are going through or recovering from some trauma – heartbreak, loss, depression, anything. The dark, sadistic narration of the story would come dancing out of the page and sit on the chest of the reader, leaving them gasping for breath.

All hell breaks loose when Amy, the wife of the laid-off New York journalist Nick Dunne goes missing. Where is Amy? All the evidences scattered around the house point to only one conclusion. A possible homicide. Suspect? It’s always the husband, darling. Always the husband. Didn’t we all know that already? Yes, we read crime novels way too much. Reading about crime is a kind of addiction. It is like quenching the deepest, darkest desire of our own subconscious. Nick enjoys it too, the idea of killing his wife. And he is a liar as well. He is one of those people who don’t wear their hearts on their sleeves. And so the game begins. Did Nick kill his wife? Or is he innocent? And if he didn’t do it, what happened to Amy then? The unreliable narrative, the plot twists, the suspense would leave the reader’s mind reeling. Whom to trust? Nick or Amy? Or none? And it would also leave the ever bugging question behind. Do we really get to know our spouses completely? (And I'm not even married yet!) Is there really a happily ever after? Or we are just trapped in the cage of brainwashed lies and an addiction of self-loathing that we make ourselves believe that we are happy, very happy. Gone Girl is Flynn’s third book, published in 2012, then made into a feature film in 2014; both garnering accolades and positive reviews. Flynn was a newlywed when she started writing the book.

Next on my list was Sharp Objects – Flynn’s first novel that was published back in 2006. It was the popularity of Gone Girl that brought Flynn’s earlier two books back in the limelight. Camille Preaker is a not-so-successful journalist with a disturbing past who goes back to her hometown to cover a series of bizarre murders of little girls. If Gone Girl had screwed with my mind, Sharp Objects made me repulsed. The gory, gothic nature of the story makes the reader sick to the stomach. Yet the intriguing plot keeps them hooked on till the last page. I wanted to throw up but also wanted to know what happens in the end.

Dark Places tells the story of a family, or rather the demise of a family. On a fateful night the entire Day family was brutally murdered in their own house, sparing the eldest and the youngest of the siblings. Ben Day, the eldest child of the family would be convicted of murdering his family upon the witness given by Libby Day, the little sister of Ben. Old sins leave long shadows. And twenty five years later that shadow would come knocking at the door of Libby Day – now a thirty two years old woman with a questionably twisted character. Did Ben Day really kill his family? Did Libby really see her brother doing it or was her traumatised juvenile mind prepped into believing in the easiest solution? What exactly happened on that very day that ended in such cataclysm that ripped a family apart? Libby Day’s journey begins – a journey to the dark places that she has been carefully running from for the past twenty five years. The book shuttles back from past to present, from the perspective of Libby and her deceased mother and her brother, slowly bridging the gap between what has been believed until now and what had really happened.

All three books are set in the state of Missouri, the home state of the author herself. She gives a virtual tour of the rural America, and its class conflicts. The picture isn’t a rosy one though. Flynn is practically an expert at playing with the dark. She does it with so much ease and precision that it keeps on bugging her reader. What the hell is wrong with her? Is she alright? Did she have a normal childhood and puberty? It is not easy for an author to make their readers worry for their mental well-being and Flynn does it quite brilliantly. And it begins to worry the reader even more owing to so many similarities between Flynn and her characters. Not only did she grow up in Missouri, she too got fired from her job as a pop culture writer for EW just like her character Nick Dunne. However, the acknowledgements at the end of each book tell a different story. In fact, she praised her husband at the end of Gone Girl so magnanimously that it led the journalists to ask her whether it was done intentionally to make it clear that he was not Nick Dunne.

Women are sinister creatures in all three books of Flynn. They are twisted if not the villain. Even the most helpless of them would fail to raise any sympathy. They are manipulative, selfish. They steal. They lie. They booze. They are sometimes violent to animals. They are irresponsible. They use sex, drug and sometimes self-mutilation to get away from their troubles.  The evil is so neatly sewed in together with their innate nature that they would give the men a run for their money. No wonder I loved these books, I hate the sad, pathetic majority of women who put so much effort to prove to the world how good and perfect they are for the patriarchal, pseudo-feminist society. Flynn was once asked regarding her ‘misogynist’ depiction of female characters in her books. To that, her reply was,

“To me, that puts a very, very small window on what feminism is. Is it really only girl power, and you-go-girl, and empower yourself, and be the best you can be? Foe me, it’s also the ability to have women who are bad characters… the one thing that really frustrates me is this idea that women are innately good, innately nurturing. In literature, they can be dismissably bad – trampy, vampy, bitchy types – but there’s still a big pushback against the idea that women can be just pragmatically evil, bad and selfish… I don’t write psycho bitches. The psycho bitch is just crazy – she has no motive, and so she’s a dismissible person because of her psycho-bitchiness.”
(Excerpt from The Guardian, Gillian Flynn on her bestseller Gone Girl and accusations of misogyny)