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[Reading Group] SPOILERS June 2014: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Discussion in 'Novels & Stories' started by Philip Overby, May 24, 2014.

  1. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    Our June 2014 non-fantasy pick will be Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

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    This novel is one that is hard to discuss without spoilers, so I'd suggest if you're going to follow along, it's best to keep up or avoid this thread. I have a friend that's read the book and he almost spoiled some stuff.

    Anyway, this book is a little over 400 pages and is a super quick read. It's one of those "hard to put down" books in my opinion. I abandoned The Name of the Wind once I stared reading this, but fully intend on finishing. It's just this book has been easier to read on my various commutes.

    There aren't chapters, per se, so let's aim for this (or thereabouts):

    Week 1 (June 1st-7th): Part 1
    Week 2 (June 8th-15th): Part 2
    Week 3 (June 16-23): Part 2 (Cont.)
    Week 4 (June 24-30): Part 3

    If you do post any spoilers, please make sure to give it spoiler tags. Looking forward to this discussion!
     
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2014
  2. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I am done with it already. Great book.
     
  3. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    For those that are on the fence for this one, I really enjoy it a lot so far. I've lost some sleep actually staying up late reading it. I haven't done that in quite some time. It's pretty graphic in some parts, but if you don't mind that then it's quite the book.
     
  4. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I'm interested in the discussion starting in June. One question I have is why fantasy novels never have characters this well developed. I'm also two chapters into Dark Places.
     
  5. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    That's a very good point, Steerpike. The characters are so well done in this one. Without getting too much into it yet (I'll save it for June) I think fantasy novels tend to like to focus on big events and multiple characters, so there isn't as much time to do deep character development like this. This novel focuses on one event with little side events that feed into it.

    I hate to build it up so much, but I have really enjoyed how well this book is done. I hope I can learn some things from it.
     
  6. ACSmyth

    ACSmyth Minstrel

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    I'm just finishing off a couple of other books I've got on the go (not Name of the Wind, for now) and then I'll get onto this one. It's borrowed from a friend and I've had it for months, so I really need to get it back to her!
     
  7. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    My Kindle version actually comes with reading group discussion questions, but some of them are spoilers. I may look at some of them and try to post some version of the questions here to initiate discussion. There's a lot to discuss with this book, so I feel like we should get a lot of mileage.

    I also started reading Flynn's book Dark Places. I may have to go on a thriller/mystery tangent to cleanse my pallet of fantasy for a bit. :)
     
  8. ACSmyth

    ACSmyth Minstrel

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    I've all but stopped reading for the past few days, since I discovered the lures of Storium. I really must get back to it...
     
  9. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    OK, I'll bite: what is Storium? I think I heard you mention it before, but I guess it's some kind of website for stories? Anyway, still got time to read and I think this book will be a breeze to finish. It took me a little under a week and I'm a super slow reader. Seriously, it takes me forever to even read a 30 page short story sometimes.
     
  10. ACSmyth

    ACSmyth Minstrel

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    It was a Kickstarter a few weeks ago.

    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/stlhood/storium-the-online-storytelling-game

    There are two videos on there that give a flavour of it.

    It's sort of a cross between an RPG and collaborative storytelling, and I'm totally hooked. I'm in three games. One I'm playing in is very slow and a bit like pulling teeth, and that's not much fun. Another is a fantasy with a lot of intrigue and assassination and stuff (a bit like Game of Thrones meets Kushiel's Dart). I've deliberately created a weak character who basically has a target on his back to see how long I can keep him alive.

    Then I'm narrating (a bit like being a GM) an urban fantasy I'm running for a bunch of friends. They didn't back the Kickstarter, but I can invite people into a particular game via email, at least for now. They are hooked now too. The first day we wrote 4.5K words between us and had a lot of fun.

    I'm normally OK with plotting, but I'm not as good at characterisation, so this is an easy way for me to play a lot of different characters and work on how to make them a real character as quickly as possible through character voice, etc. And one of my friends had been really struggling to write, but she's itching to get back to it now.

    I've seen a lot of people talk about it on G+ and Twitter, and there are a ton of authors involved, both with development and the extra worlds that were backed in the Kickstarter.
     
  11. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    Cool, I may seriously consider trying it out in a couple of months once work is on break. I could use something fun like that as a distraction.

    OK, so here are the first questions for discussion for Gone Girl. Please feel free to add your own to increase discussion. This first week is dedicated to Part I:

    1. What do you think of Nick's character? Does he come off strange or aloof?

    2. How about Amy's character? Do you feel sorry for her situation?

    3. How do the supporting characters play any significant role (Amy's parents, Go, and Nick's father)?

    4. Did the story catch your interest early on? Why?

    5. Since this is a non-fantasy month, what do you think Flynn does with characterization and plot that you don't often see in fantasy novels?
     
  12. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    Just checking in with folks about this book. Haven't heard anything yet, so I'll offer some thoughts:

    1. What do you think of Nick's character? Does he come off strange or aloof?

    I would say Nick annoyed me at first, but as the story goes on I started to like him a bit more. Despite the fact he does some questionable things, he feels like a real, flawed guy.

    2. How about Amy's character? Do you feel sorry for her situation?

    I would say at this stage of the book (Part 1) I found Amy to be sympathetic in some ways, but perhaps too, what's the word, precious? Like she wants everything to be like a movie or like her parents when things simply don't work that way in most relationships.

    3. How do the supporting characters play any significant role (Amy's parents, Go, and Nick's father)?

    I like Go a lot and I think she grounds Nick in a lot of ways. Nick's father appears as the exact thing Nick doesn't want to become: a woman-hating jerk who has become kind of this shadow haunting everyone that won't go away.

    4. Did the story catch your interest early on? Why?

    Definitely. I haven't gotten this attached to a story so quickly in some time. It actually kind of made me feel weird. Like in some way, am I meant to be mostly reading thrillers? I guess no one can be meant to be read one style of fiction, but I feel like I'm going to definitely start reading more of these fast-paced stories. I'm reading Dark Places now and it's very similar in style.

    5. Since this is a non-fantasy month, what do you think Flynn does with characterization and plot that you don't often see in fantasy novels?

    I guess what I've noticed is that each character is given time to develop through dialogue and narration. Of course Nick and Amy get the most since they're PoV characters. I like how the cast is small, so it gives plenty of time for each character to get some "page time" so to speak. With fantasy novels, I feel some of the casts are so huge, that it feels like characters are just serving a role (the warrior, the old man, the love interest, etc.) so they're not developed as much. Each scene lets the characters do a lot of work and the plot is constantly moving forward. This means each character has to be significant. There isn't a lot of time for characters that don't figure into the plot one way or another.
     
  13. Kaellpae

    Kaellpae Inkling

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    I agree with most of what you said. I had trouble getting into the book, though. I could relate a bit to Nick, but Amy seemed really fake. Once I neared the end of part one I finally got into it and read the rest of the book last night. I was happy with part 2, but I want happy with the ending.

    One thing though. I was 100% sure before I started reading the book that Nick was innocent purely from his name.
    Nick Dunne. Dunne, Nick. Dunnit. It doesn't seem like it was supposed to be any sort of actual clue, but that was how my mind put it together, and I figured if his name was pointing toward him doing it, as is all the evidence they have through part one and who Nick seems to be, I just can't see him as the wife killer. But that was my thoughts before reading and through Part 1.
     
  14. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    1. What do you think of Nick's character? Does he come off strange or aloof?

    Nick definitely comes off as flawed. I went back and forth on him a bit, sometimes feeling a bit of sympathy toward him, other times finding him just "off" enough to wonder what was going on with him, and other times not liking him as a person in the least bit.

    2. How about Amy's character? Do you feel sorry for her situation?

    Amy was more sympathetic to me, at least early on. Her POV, presented through her diary entries, builds some sympathy. And I did feel sorry for her and her situation.

    3. How do the supporting characters play any significant role (Amy's parents, Go, and Nick's father)?

    I like Go. I agree that she is a grounding influence for Nick. In fact, one thing that made Amy seem a bit off to me is that Amy and Go don't like each other. Amy's parents seem a bit like oddballs, though much of that comes from Amy's POV of them. I didn't like Nick's father much. I think they all play significant roles, though. Go and Amy's parents coming from the outside, as it were, and impacting the viewpoint characters. Amy's parents and their books were obviously a significant factor in Amy's childhood. Nick's father was one of the first people I thought about as a possible suspect.

    4. Did the story catch your interest early on? Why?

    Yes, it caught my interest right out of the gate on the strength of the writer and the author's voice (or, perhaps more accurately, the narrative voices of the viewpoint characters).

    5. Since this is a non-fantasy month, what do you think Flynn does with characterization and plot that you don't often see in fantasy novels?


    Fantasy novel writers don't seem to get into the same level of detail with characters. Maybe it's because they have to do so much else in terms of detailing the world and everything in it. But even in fantasy novels set in the real world, you're not likely to see this kind of depth in terms of delving into characters and their psychology. I'm not sure why.
     
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  15. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I'm interested if you've ever read any fantasy novels that come close to doing this. Perhaps the Dresden Files books?
     
  16. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I don't think The Dresden Files get to the level of Flynn. Peake gets pretty deep into characters in the Gormenghast books, though in a more descriptive and poetic manner, and less in the straightforward psychological manner of Flynn.

    Actually, there is an author in Fantasy who gets into characters like this - Caitlin R. Kiernan.
     
  17. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I often find here on the forum (and elsewhere) that fantasy writers and readers often say characters are more important than other things for them. However, I do see more focus about discussions of world-building, cliche plots, etc. I think the best way to have such great characterization is, like you said, to maybe focus less on cool magic and such. That and to have tighter plots that need less characters. I think Flynn does well because she only has really a cast of ten? Most of the focus is put on Nick and Amy, but I think the little details of the minor characters (Amy's parents always seeming perpetually interlocked, Nick's dad a grumbling shadow, etc.) helps build the two main characters the most. Nick's interactions with Go show him as a mellow, laidback guy, while his interactions with Amy paint him as a distant, neglectful husband. Perhaps that is the key to make fantasy characters stand out more? Allow their relationships to flourish (or stagnate) in different ways?

    I find this to be a very interesting point that I've been thinking about a lot. I'm often told my stories don't "sound" like fantasy stories. I try to make my characters sound more like people I see and meet in real life (I hope.)
     
  18. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    Haven't had as much discussion this month as I expected since this book has loads to talk about. Maybe once we get to Part 2 it will pick up.

    Feel free to jump in at any time.
     
  19. ACSmyth

    ACSmyth Minstrel

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    I've only got to the bit where he gets home and she's gone, so I'm trailing behind as usual.
     
  20. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I totally forgot we can discuss Part 2 now. I'm pretty sure a lot of pretty crazy stuff happened in this section, but I'll have to go back and see.

    I just finished Dark Places, so that book is sticking with me more at the moment. I think Gone Girl is the better of the two, but both are wildly engaging for me.

    One thing I can bring up:

    What do you think about the developments in Part 2? Did you expect the twist?
     
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