It's ages since I read one of the books everyone is talking about. In fact, I don't think I've done it since I stopped working in Oxfambooks, when I read several Dan Brown books, one after the other, standing behind the counter during slack periods in the shop.This is far, far better than any Dan Brown book, but it did have a couple of similarities. I ate it up over the course of a weekend, not wanting to put it down, just wanting to keep those pages turning. But when I'd finished it, I felt... not cheated, but slightly grubby. The people in this book are either amazingly unpleasant or else they feel like they've been deliberately toned down to ensure there are one or two genuine humans in the mix. Not that there's anything wrong with unpleasantness, per se. God knows I've read enough horror books where people are unpleasant and find themselves in rotten situtations, but there's usually someone to root for. Usually at least one of the protagonists is good, sympathetic, semi-normal. Not here. These people are all awful.
Not only that, but I felt uncomfortable with the characters' gender roles and the whole issue of men versus women that I felt was a thread throughout. You will just have to take my word for this, though, because I no longer have the book to hand. I mostly read it on a plane, and now I've loaned it on to someone else to read on a plane, because it's that kind of book.
Much of this criticism stems from the fact that Gone Girl, despite being good, is not perfect, and I feel like it could have been. Certainly there's a whole heap of excellent writing in here. The story--in which two married writers of useless fripperies are crushed by the recession and the death of print and must return to his home town to help take care of his dying mother and try to make some kind of normal life and instead end up playing the most monstrous mind games with each other to the bewilderment of all around them--is very clever. The way it ties in the recession, the extreme poverty of much of middle America, and even the selfishness of people in propagating the species even when there's no apparent future for the offspring, is deftly done and makes some serious social points pretty lightly. The way the story of their relationship is woven into the book's main action is skilful and adds to the book's page-turning power. I even liked the ending, which has apparently divided readers and made the book quite the talking point. And what author doesn't want that?
But I couldn't love it. Because I didn't like the characters, I couldn't care about their fates that much, and even though I know it was meant to be funny in a way, I just found it overwhelmingly bleak.