Review: Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn

 I struggle with spoilers.  I’ve always had a sneaky suspicion that I have stronger reactions to most things than other people do … watching The Vicar of Dibley or other examples of cringe comedy is physically quite painful for me and then tense kind of dramas really get me unsettled.  It is a struggle not knowing how things are going to work out.  When I was little, I just used to flick to the final page and double check that none of the characters that I liked had died.  Now, as an adult, I have to resist the constant temptation to Search Engine it … I actually have done that a few times at the cinema during scary bits.  Sad.  True.  (Incidentally, as per the advice of a comedian at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, I am trying to stop name checking a certain non-tax-paying internet search engine conglomerate so am using Search Engine as a verb.  Try it.)

Still, for me, spoilers do not usually mean that I can no longer enjoy a book.  There are times though when I have basically ruined the ending of a book for myself because the tension just got too much and I have wondered how different the experience might have been if it truly had been a surprise that X died five pages before the end or that Y turned treacherous.  Most of the time, it has no affect on my reading enjoyment but I was really glad that in this case I was able to hold it in.

I hadn’t planned to read Gone Girl, I’m on a book ban … but I’d had a bad day and it was on offer in Tesco.  It took a few weeks for me to actually sit down to it but when I did, I read it in a day and a half.  It is one of those books that you read in one go and then look up from, feeling slightly stunned.  For me – right now I want to just explain what I thought of it but it is one of those books that once you’ve read once, the trick is gone.  It’s all about going into it as an innocent and then letting the book make you see things from a different perspective.  That’s not to say that it’s Shakespeare, but it is nonetheless a very absorbing thriller about a curdled marriage.  I read an interview with the author that stated that her proudest moment was that hearing that when her cousin’s husband booked an expensive holiday despite being usually penny-pinching, his wife immediately thought back to the book and fretted momentarily that he might be trying to kill her.  I can’t help but feel that was an extreme reaction but there can be no doubt that this is an unsettling read.

There’s an atmosphere of barely-submerged nastiness about this book from the beginning; it opens with Nick describing how distinctive his wife’s skull is.  At around the mid-way point I didn’t like it at all and was just steaming through because I felt like I had to find out what happened but the ending was such that I ended up finishing it feeling that it had been exceptionally well done.  The brief outline is this: on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne comes home to find that his wife Amy has vanished.  The front door is swinging open and there are signs of a struggle in the living room but the cat has been fed and the kitchen is untouched.  Nick and Amy have been having problems; both recently made redundant, they have moved back to his Missouri home, much to the New York-native Amy’s displeasure.  Their story is told in alternating chapters – he narrating from the present and then Amy’s diary entries dating back to their first meeting. As their stories converge, it becomes obvious that their stories do not match.

Nick is apparently puzzled by what has become of Amy, but is caught in the headlights of the accelerating juggernaut of publicity going on behind him.  He struggles to remember not to smile at the camera while at the press conference following her disappearance.  He tries to decipher the treasure hunt clues that his wife has left for him for their anniversary.  And on the other hand, Amy’s diary tells a happy-go-lucky story of a woman who loves her husband and works at her marriage, she shrugs off the times when Nick disappoints her.

There are many things that can seem trope-like in this novel – Amy is the daughter of author parents who wrote a series of books about The Amazing Amy.  As soon as you read that someone’s parents wrote a series of books about them growing up, you instantly know that there’s going to be something amiss about their adjustment.  Still, there was a lot in this book that was truthful – at one point one character has a rant about the idea of the Cool Girl.  As Gillian Flynn notes in the interview section at the end of the book, there are many cool girls without capitals but the Cool Girl who drinks beer and watches sports and does whatever else the boy she likes thinks is Cool is very fictional construct.  It may be a step on from the 1950s housewife ideal but it’s still a pressure on women to be what they are not.  To pretend to be someone else to suit the boy because God forbid you be seen as the nagging stick-in-the-mud.  The Cool Girl drinks like a fish and lets her boyfriend do what he likes but all of this is no more real than the 1950s woman who was supposed to get all giddy at the idea of a new oven mitt.

She’s bought the film rights, future Amy?

This is a tough book to read … however I still enjoyed it and despite the dark message behind it, somehow it remained a light read. I recommend it.  I would quite like someone else to read it too so that I can talk about it to them.  It does live up to the hype, the film is something that I would be prepared to go and see although again, as someone who has read the book, I have seen behind the curtain and I know how the trick works.  By trick, I don’t refer to anything to do with the plot but rather that for a novel that rests on the idea that you will never truly know the person you have sworn to spend your life with – once the truth of that is revealed, you will never let yourself forget it.

I am woefully naive – I still believe in love and that it is possible to find someone who will truly understand you, no matter how unfortunate one’s quirks may be.  It may be a tortuous and traumatising route, but in some ways it seemed that Nick and Amy had managed to do just that.  You just might not particularly want to drop round for dinner.

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Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Published by Crown on 2012
Genres: Fiction, Mystery & Detective, General, Thrillers, Suspense
Pages: 419
ISBN: 9780307588364

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4 thoughts on “Review: Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn

  1. Hi – I know, the end is quite something … not exactly a match made in heaven. I haven't read any of Flynn's other books but strangely I would actually quite like to see the film of this. They've got Ben Affleck in for Nick and then Rosamund Pike for Amy. Looks interesting …
    Thanks for commenting 🙂

  2. Hi. I just want to say I enjoyed reading your review. With a variety of great films under his belt, David Fincher has risen to become one of the best directors in the Hollywood business.

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