SPOILER LEVEL: Maybe.
Spanish publisher and editor Jacobo Siruela says he doesn’t like to read young writers because all of them write as if you were watching a Hollywood movie.
That’s reality. Today novels are written as movies and if the first five pages don’t have enough drama or action to grab you, the book is out. The market is wild and publishers want immediate conflict and huge hooks to hold the reader, who at any point may throw the book away and watch Netflix or even an awarded international short gratis in YouTube.
Gone Girl, a novel by Gillian Flynn is a well crafted thriller plagued with more twists that it needs and a weak ending where the bad guys prevail. But it is also a light and easy reading best-seller.
I was curious about it because I got an email from Chapters—my Canadian bookstore—that said: Gone Girl. You have not read anything like this. And so I thought: Hum, I haven’t read anything like that? Innocent and aggressive publicity for a best-seller.
Critics from Salon.com, The Huffington Post, and Entertainment Weekly pose the novel as literary fiction. I have serious doubts in thinking of Gone Girl as a piece of literary fiction. According to the former critics, this book is considered literary because it shows fragmented pieces of narrative that fit together at the end while introducing different narrators, which—by the way—are deceitful.
But if you want to read a literary novel with a bunch of doubtful narrators go grab My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk. Want another with an unreliable narrator written originally in English? Get the Third Policeman from Flan O’Brien. Want an American one? Get Rant by Chuck Palahniuk.
In Gone Girl the narrators are traitors but they do not deceive the reader. The narrators are 100% reliable for the reader: they say true stuff, they don’t lie to the reader. It’s different to portray a character that betrays other fictional characters than having a narrator hiding information from the reader on purpose and making the reader think at the end about the validity of the narrator’s word throughout the whole story. That doesn’t happen in Gone Girl where you can certainly trust the narrator. The characters are deceitful for other characters, but not for you, the reader. You won’t finish the novel doubting if Amy really lie to Nick or if Nick really cheated on Amy or if one acted for love and the other for lust. You’ll know the true positions of both of them from the point of view of the narrator in all the items relevant for the story. That’s it.
It seems critics confused an unreliable and deceiving character with a unreliable narrator.
The bookstore was right about Gone Girl: You have not read anything like this because it isn’t a novel. Gone Girl was designed, as Jacobo Siruela says, as a screenplay, Gone Girl is a TV series, not even a movie. Each chapter is constructed as a TV chapter of 40 minutes or so, and it would be better seen every Thursday on the small screen than read on paper. The tension and the fun would arise slowly with weekly chapters and the twists it has are enough for at least four seasons.
The movie was good but I still think it would have made a better sitcom on Netflix than a film.