Thursday, January 10, 2013

"Gone Girl," by Gillian Flynn

The Protagonists:

Nick Dunne: A laid-off writer who now owns a bar in Missouri while he cares for his ailing parents. Comes under suspicion when his wife goes missing on their 5-year anniversary.

Amy Dunne: Nick's wealthy, charming wife who hasn't adapted as well to Missouri life as Nick - and then she vanishes without a trace.

The Secondary Cast:

Margo "Go" Dunne: Nick's twin sister who helps run his bar. A loyal confidante, even as things start looking grimmer and grimmer for Nick.

Desi Collings: Amy's high school boyfriend who took their breakup extremely badly. Has remained obsessed with her for years.

Marybeth and Rand: Amy's parents - child psychologists who made their fortune off a children's series they based on their daughter, called Amazing Amy.

Rhonda Boney: One of the detectives handling the investigation of Amy's disappearance. Despite the mounting evidence against Nick, she retains an instinctive belief that Nick is innocent.

The Word: I think for the purposes of this review, I will have to divide it into a spoiler-free review and a spoiler-irific review. While I do think I can generally review the book without giving away the twists, I also want to examine my own reaction to this book and I seriously cannot do that without going into a little more detail about how completely, addictively messed-up this book is.

Spoiler-Free Review
One of my friends started reading this book and got bored halfway through. "It's not exciting enough," she said - and true enough, the book's pace is remarkably slow for a mystery.

Except, Gone Girl is not really a mystery, or a thriller, or a horror story. Rather, it's an examination of a marriage and how well two people can know each other - an examination that borrows from mysteries, thrillers, and horror stories to convey just how twisted a couple can be. People going in and reading it like a mystery or a thriller will likely expect a faster pace, more thrills, a dogged investigation, but take it from me, readers, and slow down. You'll thank me.

The novel starts out by alternating between the first-person POV of Nick Dunne and the diary entries of his wife, Amy. Nick is working at the bar he co-owns with his sister in his hometown of North Carthage, Missouri, when he gets a call from one of the regulars informing him that his front door is open and his cat is loose. Strange - since his wife should be home. Returning to check on her, he discovers signs of a struggle in his living room and no signs of Amy at all.

The police are called, they investigate. The only thing she left behind was a little blue envelope, for the romantic treasure hunt she planned for Nick to celebrate their anniversary.

Oh, did I forget to mention that Amy goes missing on their five-year anniversary?

As the investigation proceeds, Nick is asked questions he'd rather not answer - even as evidence starts to build up against him. Was their marriage happy? Were they in a good place? Nick knows the husband is always the prime suspect in a missing-woman case and is unwilling to own up to how estranged he and his wife have become. The author also hints that Nick is lying to and omitting important information from the reader, as well - such as where he was for two hours that morning.

While the frantic pacing at the start of the novel gives the book the air of a mystery, at heart, Gone Girl is an intriguing and horrifying examination of a marriage and how it can go terribly, woefully, violently wrong - especially as we read Amy's diary entries, written throughout their marriage, that paint an entirely different (and quite possibly malevolent) portrait of Nick than the one he shows to the cops and the news cameras.

Cleverly, this is used as a plot device to examine Nick and Amy's souring relationship. Who is the real Nick? Who is the real Amy? And are these the same identities they wore when they first met? Both Amy and Nick, in their respective narratives, express a dissatisfaction when the person they married turned out to be somebody else, as the identities they each constructed for their courtship fell apart after marriage.

The novel, of course, takes a drastically sharp turn at the midway point, where we learn the truth: Amy engineered her own disappearance in order to frame Nick for her own murder and punish him for cheating on her. As we start to read things from her real point of view, we discover she's a far cry from the naive, optimistic identity she's put forward in her diary (which she's conveniently left for the police to find).

Instead, Amy is a phenomenally brilliant sociopath with a monstrously vengeful streak. As Nick looks into people who might have wanted to hurt Amy (a high school stalker, a man accused of date rape), he discovers Amy's past reveals a devious pattern of intricate revenges unleashed upon people who've wronged her (or people Amy's perceived to have wronged her). Nick gradually realizes that in order to lure Amy back and clear his name, he's going to have to play the game by her rules, and from then on, the novel gets even better. And infinitely creepier.

This is not a happy sunshine book. I don't think it's even a book I'd want to read again. But it is an incredibly clever and amazingly written novel about identities - the ones people are born with and the ones they construct around their families, their romantic partners, and the media.

You can purchase Gone Girl: A Novel here.


  1. Heh, great timing, I just finished this book two days ago! I loved Loved LOVED the first, say, 98% of the book for the reasons you mentioned, but I wasn't thrilled with the ending. Still an excellent read, though, and one I'm recommending to people.

    1. I totally understand what you mean about the ending. It's a bit like the ending between Batman and the Joker in the Dark Knight, isn't it? You want closure but there's this symbolism about how one can't live without the other.

  2. I actually loved this book, absolutely loved it! I do love the dark and twisted stories that Gillian Flynn tells and this ranked right up there. I hated all of the characters but I absolutely enjoyed the book and found it was well-paced. I'm so sorry you didn't like it :(

    1. What do you mean? I gave it an A.