I didn’t really intend to read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, as it didn’t really sound appealing to me. But as it became more of the “everyone’s talking about it” type of book, I made an impulse decision. I spotted it on the Fast Reads shelf at the library, a designation for highly popular books with a one-week loan period (and hefty late fees).
After about 60 pages of the dual narratives between Nick in the present and Amy’s diary, I wanted to slap them both. They were such obnoxious characters—especially Amy’s incredibly self-centered opinion of the world. Reading her diary entry about ‘dancing monkey’ boyfriends had me incensed.
I knew Andrew had read Gone Girl already, so I messaged him asking if it was worth it and he encouraged me to press on.
On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears.
Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?
From the publisher, Random House of Canada
The point is that both characters are horrible and you’re not supposed to like either one; there will be no clear ‘winner’, no ‘underdog’ to root for, and certainly no happy endings in this tale. I did finish reading the book and I am happy to admit that I wasn’t disappointed, but I’m not quite sure it lives up to all the hype.
The story is the unravelling of the mystery, as opposed to solving it. With two chronically unreliable narrators, I did enjoy reading the alternating narratives of Nick and Amy, once I pushed past the desire to throttle Amy (not for framing Nick, just for being a snob). Fairly early on I decided that Amy had probably run away, so I wasn’t too surprised when that was revealed. The setting him up for murder was an interesting twist, but some of the clues and planning were just too perfect. Of course, the police immediately suspect Nick because the partner is always the first suspect when a spouse goes missing.
One review I read (while trying to sort out my feelings about the novel) said the book left them “feeling betrayed, misled, manipulated, provoked, and misjudged,” (in a good way). But to be honest, I didn’t feel as enthralled as a regular thriller, and some of the overt sexism rubbed me the wrong way. I’m not saying that Gillian Flynn shouldn’t include it—I think it’s an important thing to include (that gender bias works in both ways) but part of me feels like we were beaten over the head with it. The misogynistic remarks by Nick was appalling and although it worked for the novel and was necessary for the story it still made my blood boil. And then Amy’s completely snobbish remarks about everyone and anything, her self-centered scenarios, and the perfectly planned set-up was almost too perfect. How could she have forseen the exact circumstances of the investigation, and predicted the actions of Nick, her parents, and the police? I suppose this is the wonder of a sociopath?
Even though Nick isn’t to blame for the disappearance, per say, that’s not to say he’s a perfect angel. Nick may not be the sociopath that Amy is, but he’s a chronic liar. Although, in hindsight, it was kind of satisfying to read about such a dysfunctional relationship and fucked-up characters. I also really enjoyed the double entendres in Amy’s treasure hunt clues, once Nick’s ‘indiscretion’ came to light.
Once I’d realized I wasn’t supposed to like either narrator, reading the story went a lot smoother. I enjoyed how the tale unravelled, and the construction was really well plotted. The first half of the story is with Nick in the present (Day of, 1 Day Gone, 2 Days Gone, etc.) and with Amy’s old diary from when the couple first met five years ago. Then, halfway through, as the reader is being led by the hand through everything (if you hadn’t already figured it out), the narratives switch. Amy is now narrating in the present day (starting from Day of, 1 Day Gone, etc), and limited vision Nick, just to keep the reader in the dark a little.
END OF SPOILER ALERT
I have to say though, I am looking forward to the film adaptation. Ben Affleck is Nick, and something about his face makes me think he’ll get that smarmy “winning smile” perfectly. Rosamund Pike is cast as Amy, and I think it’s her eyebrows that make her face so hard to read, which is perfect for the role. David Fincher is directing and apparently Gillian Flynn has also reworked the ending so there might be a different twist or surprise.