Book Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Book cover via Amazon.
Book cover via Amazon.

 

This post contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.

When Amy Dunne goes missing on her fifth wedding anniversary, all clues point to her perfect husband. Upon discovery of her diary, the secrets resting within its pages do little to exonerate Nick Dunne: in fact, they only further implicate him. As days go by, people begin to assume the worst: Amy is dead. With nothing to prove himself innocent, Nick is left to fend for himself in this emotionally tumultuous journey that is pock-marked with hairpin turns.

Like many others that have picked up Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, I succumbed to the hype that Flynn’s fanbase created for this novel. I was not prepared. I was not ready emotionally to read something like this, and I truly wish that those that suggested I peruse its pages had warned me about the journey that I was about to embark on. To say that Gone Girl is a thrilling, twisting read is an understatement; it is far worse than that. As someone who has been through a few rough spots and plenty of bad relationships, I can only say this: if your wounds have not yet scarred over, hold off. I cried, I screamed, I suffered a massive panic attack, and I nearly threw my iPad in the time it took me to read this novel, because, as I said, I was not prepared.

There is no doubt in my mind that Gillian Flynn is an excellent writer. Never before have I encountered a story so well written that I simultaneously hated and loved it. My own adverse reactions aside, the mere fact that Flynn is able to so easily rile her readers to the point that they’d like to set the characters of Gone Girl on fire is, on its own, a testament to her craft. Honestly, I can’t blame anyone that feels that way (in fact, I feel the same way and I’d love to light them up), and here is why: Flynn pays homage to the old saying that there are three sides to every story: his side, her side, and the truth. That said, there are, in fact, three sides to this story, only two of them are from the same character.

Amy’s diary paints us a pretty clear picture of her: every year, she plays a game with her husband and at the end of it, there is a prize. She is something to be envied, and something to be treasured. Her life, thanks to her parents, is full of misery. Amy hasn’t always made the right choices, and she feels slighted by her parents because their Amazing Amy books appear to make a mockery of her life. Because these books were, throughout her younger years, best sellers, Amy has to deal with an obsessive ex-boyfriend and a once best-friend that wishes she was Amy.

As I read along with her diary entries, I began to identify with her in the worst way possible. Like myself, Amy feels worthless. As if she isn’t enough, and no matter how hard she tries, she never will be. She has shoes to fill that are far too big and a husband that seems to be growing bored with her. Nick is distant, and only seems interested in her when he wants sex. She begins to fear for her life, citing Nick’s explosive anger as a reason to feel so unsafe that she attempts to acquire a run. In a desperate, last-ditch effort to rekindle their romance, she goes all out on their yearly treasure hunt, even beginning the day with crepes.

Nick, on the other hand, is referred to by some as a “golden boy.” He’s married into money and, alongside his job at The Bar, teaches at a local campus. When he comes home to find his wife gone, he is distraught – or rather, he should be. It is clear from his point of view that he is, to some degree, worried, but because of his own dark secrets, finds it difficult to behave appropriately in front of the big screen. Naturally, as Amy’s disappearance goes national, news show hosts become critical of his actions, and ultimately, we learn that Nick is a cheater. He has every motive to end his wife’s life, and as we continue through the story, all the evidence piles up against him. Because I was able to identify so well with Amy, the discovery of Nick’s infidelity hit me hard: it has been just over a year since my engagement ended because my fiancé cheated on me. Our relationship fell apart in much the same way that Amy and Nick Dunne’s marriage appears to in Gone Girl. The situation is so bad that Nick is forced to hire Tanner Bolt, famed defender of the guilty.

Or so I thought. We follow Amy’s saga up until the day of her disappearance, and then, not unlike a bug colliding with a windshield, Flynn throws a curve ball at us in the form of Amy’s post-disappearance point-of-view. Okay, that might have been a horrid metaphor, but what I’m getting at is the fact that Flynn spends more than half the book convincing us that Amy is in danger while simultaneously giving us reasons to doubt her, and then, without warning, releases the real Amy upon us. After identifying with Amy in the manner that I did, I couldn’t help but feel completely and totally repulsed to see those same similarities because, unlike Amy, I am not a psychopath, and she is the very definition of the word.

There is nothing that Amy won’t stoop to in order to get what she wants, and we learn this as she manipulates everyone and everything around her so thoroughly that there can be no doubt regarding her innocence. The world loves her, and the world does not know the monster she truly is. She is meticulous in her set-up, and when she determines that Nick has suffered enough, and not until after she’s used and abused her so called “stalker” ex-boyfriend – and it gets worse. Far worse.

The sole comedic relief comes in the form of Nick’s twin sister, Margo. It is because of Go that I was able to occasionally take a step back from the severity of the story, from my pounding heart and blind rage, to relax and, on occasion laugh. She is perhaps the most sane, down-to-earth character in the insane mess that is Flynn’s Gone Girl.

Aside from how disturbing the reality of Amy Elliott Dunn is, or how realistically Nick is portrayed, the only bone I really have to pick with Gone Girl is the way in which it is told. I’m not that big of a fan of alternating point-of-views, though I do tolerate them. The way in which Gone Girl alternates, on the other hand, is absolutely dreadful. The only constant timeline throughout the story is Nick’s, if you subtract Amy’s from it. While his remains steady, we are constantly thrust back in time to see Amy’s side of things, until ultimately, we catch up. I found this to be distracting, and while it did not make the book unreadable, it was most definitely unpleasant.

And then of course, there’s the ending. That was no resolution, and it most definitely fell way too flat. Supposedly, Flynn’s other books are better, so I’ll have to read those too. Eventually, I’ll watch the movie to see how it adds up.

Characters
Plot
Writing Style
Flow
Average
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