The thing about Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl is that a) you have to read it and b) you have to avoid spoilers at all costs. There’s a lot of buzz surrounding this book at the moment. People are talking. Whatever you do, you MUST NOT discuss this book with anyone who has read it. If a friend recommends Gone Girl to you and starts trying to tell you what it’s about, you need to block your ears and back away slowly because your “friend” is about to ruin a really great reading experience for you and you need to get away from them right now!
Part crime novel, part suspense-thriller, part family drama, Gone Girl is a difficult book to define. On the one hand, it’s a finely crafted mystery full of red herrings and shock twists. On the other hand it’s a totally original, weirdly addictive and darkly twisted “Un-Romance”. If this book had a theme song it would be Love is a Battlefield. If it was a cocktail, it would be a vodka martini with a twist (served with a sprinkling of anti-freeze). If it were a person, this book would be a really good looking, super charming and amazingly witty knife-wielding-psychopath.
Gone Girl is the kind of book that you should read knowing as little as possible about the plot. Which actually makes it a really difficult book to review. I’m hesitant to say too much for fear that, in my enthusiasm, I might accidentally give too much away.
So. All you really need to know about the plot of Gone Girl is that it is about a man and a woman.
Ok, fine. Gone Girl is about a man called Nick and a woman called Amy. Nick and Amy meet, fall in love and get married. Oh, and then Amy goes missing on the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary and all signs point to foul play.
What happened to Amy? Is she dead? Did Nick kill his lovely wife? Was Amy really as lovely as she seemed? Is Nick a hero or a villain? Don’t look at me for answers. Seriously, don’t. I have no poker-face and I’m trying really hard keep things spoiler-free!
In one sense, the plot of Gone Girl is an incredibly simple one. But it’s not so much what happens in the book that makes it so incredible (even though what happens is pretty gosh-darn incredible), but rather how the story is told. The book is written in split narrative format – switching viewpoints between Nick and Amy, with Amy’s side of the story shown in diary entries.
Now you would think this kind of “he said, she said” narrative style would allow readers to get a clear, unbiased view from both sides of Nick and Amy’s marriage. Yeah. You would think that. Instead, almost from the first switch in viewpoint, it rapidly becomes clear that neither Nick, nor Amy, can be depended on to tell the truth. These are two very unreliable narrators, constantly trying to deceive and manipulate. And yet, even though you know you can’t trust them, they are both so convincing that trying to sift truth from lies becomes a mind boggling game of second guessing everything you are told. And what unfolds as Nick and Amy tell their story is a gloriously twisted, deliciously disturbing tale of love-gone-wrong.
When thinking how best to describe Gone Girl, my mind fumbles around trying to find a word that means both wonderful and disturbing. Amazing and yet also… slightly icky. Amazick?
For instance, take this sentence from the beginning of the book in which Nick describes how he was always fascinated by the way Amy’s mind worked. This is the point at which Gillian Flynn hooked me (i.e. the very first page of the book) –
“Her brain, all those coils, and her thoughts shuttling through those coils like fast, frantic centipedes. Like a child, I picture opening her skull, unspooling her brain, sifting through it, trying to catch and pin down her thoughts. What are you thinking, Amy?”
Now that right there is what you call an “amazicky” mental picture. And that’s only the beginning.
This is a sly, underhanded book, the kind that plays all sorts of sneaky mindgames in an attempt to distract you, misdirect you and then (just when you think you’re starting to figure it all out) pull the rug out from under your feet. Constantly surprising and consistently unsettling and often downright chilling, Gone Girl tracks the disintegration of what I can only describe as one of the most bizarrely dysfunctional, oddly co-dependant and severely messed up relationships ever, in the history of fiction. And yes. I have read Twilight.
The main theme here is Husband v Wife. If love is a battlefield then marriage is shown to be a weapon of mass destruction in Gone Girl. This is a book that asks the deceptively simple question – how well can you really know the person you love? What if you don’t really know them at all? What if they know you better than anyone else in the world, better even than you know yourself?
There is a very good reason Gone Girl is being touted as one of the 2012’s surprise hits. This book is virtually impossible to put down and is slowly creeping up the New York Times Bestseller List. If you check out the list you will find three books ahead of Gone Girl, all with the word “Fifty” in the title. I’m not going to talk about those books because doing so only ever ends with me shaking my fist at the sky and shouting, “WHY?!!?”. Instead, I will focus on #4 and comfort myself with the knowledge that one of the most compelling books I’ve read in ages – a sharply written, genre-defying gem of a book like Gone Girl – is causing such a splash and captivating so many readers.
In short, my advice is that you read Gone Girl and read it fast. Get on it quick, before someone spoils the ending for you! Or before the inevitable movie hits the big screens (the film rights have already been sold with Reese Witherspoon reportedly cast as Amy). And if you enjoy it half as much as I did, Gillian Flynn’s previous two novels Sharp Objects and Dark Places will leapfrog straight to the top of your To-Be-Read pile.
Review by Sarah McDuling