Author: Gillian Flynn
After reading Gone Girl, I’m not sure I ever want to get married.
This dark, twisted thriller opens on the morning of Nick and Amy Dunne’s five-year wedding anniversary. Nick lies in bed, thinking about how he and Amy came to be living in Missouri, while she makes crepes for breakfast. Immediately you can tell this is a marriage rife with discord.
Nick finally musters up the energy to go downstairs. As he stands in the doorway watching his wife, he remembers a moment from early in their courtship, then thinks: “There's something disturbing about recalling a warm memory and feeling utterly cold.” The following chapter is an entry from Amy's diary, chronicling the night she and Nick met. It’s all elation and hope. The juxtaposition of Nick’s ominous opening chapter and Amy's giddy diary entry is jarring.
Then Nick returns home to find signs of a struggle and Amy gone, and we’re off. As any fan of Law & Order and its ilk knows, the husband is usually the culprit. While he’s clearly unhappy in his marriage, is he really a killer? He certainly doesn’t do himself any favours: his statements to the police are peppered with ominous undertones (referring to her in the past tense) and he engages in quite a lot of suspicious behaviour (lying to the police, having a disposable mobile phone).
And that’s all I’m going to say about the plot. Because I don’t want to spoil it for you. Because this book is like crack.
Flynn continues alternating between Nick's perspective and Amy's throughout the book, which has the effect of slowing down the momentum a bit. In this case, I think it’s a good thing—otherwise it would be relentless. (And you’d be sleep deprived from not being able to put it down.) Flynn switches between the two seamlessly and she has a remarkable attention to detail, creating dozens of little but startling moments in between the bigger bombshells. It creates a feeling of dread, of something not being quite right.
Nick and Amy are easily the most deplorable characters I’ve encountered in a long time, and since it’s written in the first person, it can be a bit unpleasant at times. They don’t quite feel like real characters, but I think that’s the point. They are artificial. They adopt and shed various personas like leaves on trees. Nick is the charming guy that men want to be and women want to take care of, but is distant and withdrawn from his wife. And Amy? Again, I don’t want to spoil too much, but suffice to say she is not what she seems.
Parts of Gone Girl are almost like a meditation on the danger lurking in all relationships: how well do you really know this person? Most people embarking on a new relationship put their best self forward, hiding their negative traits. But some people invent a different persona altogether – the person they want to be, or at least want the other person to believe they are. Eventually, the negative qualities emerge, the facade crumbles. You realise you don't really love the real person, the relationship ends, it's disappointing. But for Nick and Amy, it’s disastrous.
The plot is ludicrous. Even the characters can't believe what's happening. But I don't care. Flynn did such a good job delving into the twisted psyches of the main characters that their actions actually do seem plausible. Besides, it's fiction. And more importantly, it's fun.
At least until the problematic ending. The book is divided into three acts; after the frenetic pace of the first two, the third is a bit of a letdown by comparison. It fizzles out. It’s like Flynn painted herself into a corner and couldn't find any other way out. It’s disappointing but there is still, somehow, a sense of inevitability to it.
Recommendation: Read it!