Dealing With Characters You Hate – Mr Peanut and Gone Girl

How do you deal with characters you just don’t like?  I’m not even talking about ones you hate because of poor writing, or something about them just not clicking with you… I mean when a writer constructs such a despicable person (or personality!) that you just can’t help disliking them.

I’ve recently read two (or, really, one and a half) books that featured characters I came to dislike fiercely.  I spent so much time trying (and failing) to find a likable character in Adam Ross’ Mr Peanut that I simply quit the novel about half-way through… the murder mystery that drove the first sixty or seventy pages just wasn’t enough to keep me reading as I tried to comprehend the extreme dysfunctions that every last character in the novel suffered from.

The worst part about it is that the novel was well written, from a prose perspective.  The dialogue flowed at times like a noir novel, and the general narration was engaging… but I just couldn’t attach to any one person in the book.  The only character I sympathized with was Alice Pepin, who spends a great deal of the novel dead.

And that brings me to Gone Girl.  Oh Gone Girl…  I haven’t read either of Gillian Flynn’s previous novels, but I’m certainly up for them now… at least as soon as I recover from the breakneck whiplash the constant twists and turns that this novel gave me.

This review is going to get HEAVY into spoilers in the coming paragraphs, so please save yourself and leave now if you haven’t finished the book.  There’s some great twists and thrills that you should experience how Flynn writes them!

Gone Girl
Gillian Flynn
Crown Publishing Group
432 Pages
June 5, 2012

Gone Girl tells the story of a relationship, from the courtship, to marriage… and beyond.

Nick and Amy meet at a party in New York City, where both live and work.  Amy has the big city in her blood, but Nick is a transplant from small town Missouri.  Despite this, they hit it off well, and eventually get married.

But all good things must come to an end.

Amy is a great character.  Flynn writes her very well, especially when we finally figure out that her previous diary entries were fake, and that she’s a secret sociopath who has been planning her own disappearance for months.

Her character is at least partially based on Christopher Robin Milne, son of A.A. Milne (writer of the Winnie The Pooh book series) and inspiration for his father’s character (obviously) Christopher Robin.

Amy, much like Son of Milne, found her childhood to often be unbearable because of her parents’ book series Amazing Amy.  Unlike Christopher Milne, who was at least somewhat reasonably well-adjusted, Amy was not.  Whether it was her attempts to live up to the standard set by Amazing Amy, or some other issue, the book doesn’t really explain… but we soon discover that Amy has long been quite a bit crazy.

And then there’s Nick.  Nick is, basically, an asshole.  But he’s a likable asshole through much of the novel… but this might only come from the fact that he’s both victim and victimizer through a large part of the book.

The mid-way point in the novel, where we find that Amy is actually still alive (and on the run, in an attempt to frame her husband), is where the roles are reversed.  We hate Nick for being distant and having an affair… but when we see the lengths to which Amy has gone to ruin her husband’s life (and when she writes about wanting Nick to get the death penalty), it makes it hard not to side with Nick, at least in some way.

So the ending…  I read a few criticisms from reviews on sites like Amazon, B&N, and Good Reads that people didn’t like the ending.  But I did, because it really hammers the point home that Amy always has a back-up plan.  And sometimes even a back-up to her back-up.

Does Nick ever managed to get out from under Amy, and get her tried and jailed after all the havoc she wreaked on his life?  Well… we don’t know.  And I like to think he doesn’t.  Because sometimes, an ending is more fun when the bad guy gets away with it.

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