It is quite upsetting to find yourself in total disagreement with critics, along with the great and good, who have given rave reviews to a book. This happened recently to me when I read “Gone Girl”. Is there something odd about me, that I cannot join in with the general praise that has been heaped upon this book? It wasn’t just that I didn’t enjoy it, I actually hated it and when I finished, I found I was left with a very bad feeling. To me it had nothing to recommend it and was neither enlivening or enriching. I may be in a minority of one, but I had no sympathy at all for the two main characters, who seemed to me two vile human beings, one cruel and destructive, the other uncaring and selfish. They had no redeeming features whatsoever as far as I could see and by the last page I just wanted them to go away and forget about the whole thing. But I was also left with a rage that this book had come so highly recommended. Has the world become so cynical that it doesn’t matter that there are no redeeming factors in the characters portrayed?
So what on earth was all the fuss about? It was certainly a long book involving a very intricate plot with many twists and turns. It certainly had the ability to shock. The writing was assured and clever. In fact I found it almost too clever. I wasn’t involved with the story at all and remained untouched and unmoved by each fresh new disaster that befell the protagonists. I may be doing the writer a great disservice but I felt she was being clever for the sake of being clever. Almost as if she were saying “I can write brilliant and intricate plots with great skill.” I would humbly point out that all that is of no value if the reader can’t enjoy your efforts – which I didn’t.
Maybe one of the main problems is that there were no good guys, not one. Everyone appeared to be flawed with no redeeming features. There was no foil – all the characters were uniformly horrible. Shakespeare knew well that you always needed a hero to set off the villain – Othello and Iago, Hamlet and Claudius etc etc. The hero or heroine might have plenty of flaws but this makes them all the more human and appealing. You want them to survive, to find love, redemption or whatever they are striving for. The two main characters in “Gone Girl” had none of this.
I am not asking for happy endings and a Mills and Boon effect. But I do require at least an emotional involvement when I read a book. So in order to remove the disappointment and irritation left by “Gone Girl” I am going to return to “War and Peace” for some emotional uplift!