Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

gonegirlJust how well can you ever know the person you love? This is the question that Nick Dunne must ask himself on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, when his wife Amy suddenly disappears. The police immediately suspect Nick. Amy’s friends reveal the she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him. He swears it isn’t true. A police examination of his computer shows strange searches. He says they aren’t his. And then there are the persistent calls on his mobile phone. So what really did happen to Nick’s beautiful wife? And what was in that half-wrapped box left so casually on their marital bed?

In this novel, marriage truly is the art of war…

Gone Girl arrived on our shelves last year and it’s been causing a big buzz ever since – other things caught my eye in between then and now, so perhaps I’m a little late on the curve here but I think a lot of people may be thinking it’ll make a good poolside holiday reading. People do like a bit or murder and mystery with their sun lounger, don’t they?

After only a few chapters, I knew that Gone Girl would be murder – excuse the pun – to review. There are so many clues scattered throughout the story and different narrative perspectives which mean there are more spoilers than almost anything I’ve ever read. I’ll tell you what I can…

Our main character is Nick Dunne. He’s an odd fellow. He’s not what I’d call a typical hero, more like an ordinary guy, in the midst of marital problems, down on his luck, but certainly not a obvious villain. But is he also a victim? His wife, Amy, of the Amazing Amy children’s book series, attractive, funny, cool, has gone. Disappeared. There seems to have been a struggle in the living room, yet it also seems staged. There are no other traces until the police arrive and find the first part of an anniversary treasure hunt, a tradition between the two, and then evidence of significant blood loss in the kitchen. Plus, we still hear from Amy, though the medium of her diary entries, and the two pictures don’t seem to be matching up. As well as this, we’re pretty sure that what Nick is telling us is true, but what isn’t he saying? His pay-as-you-go phone keeps ringing, he’s not answering…

I’ll be honest – all this left me torn. I wanted to root for someone but I just didn’t know where to go. I kept reading, and found myself being drawn in by the twists and turns… And then something big happens. Something really big – I can’t even hint at what – but suffice it to say it turns everything upside down, and I was right back to the beginning again, reevaluating what I thought. Obviously, it takes incredibly skilled writing to be able to pull off a volte-face of this scale.

I read the second part of the book much more quickly, as I could sense the tension building towards a conclusion – everything was getting pretty extreme, characters were going to extraordinary lengths, I had someone to support. And yet… And yet, there was something that I couldn’t quite accept about the way the book ended. Obviously to go into any detail would be a massive spoiler, but I just couldn’t find enough satisfaction in it.

I do think Gone Girl is incredibly well-written, well-plotted and has the most convincing character voices, as well as just the right amount of landscape and background detail to make you feel that every aspect is believable. Perhaps it’s the kind of reader I am at heart. I need someone to empathise with, not necessarily to like, but someone whose values I can respect and understand, even if I may not always agree with their choices. I don’t think I got that from Gone Girl. It’s actually a very bleak book, and an indictment of so much of what’s wrong with the current relationships and dating culture in the US and arguably the UK too. That being said, I’m not sure some of what it suggests is really healthy or even necessarily true of the majority of people in relationships; I certainly hope not…

“It’s a master class in thriller writing, planting clues and trails and manipulating the reader”

That certainly doesn’t mean that I think Gone Girl is not worth reading. It’s a master class in thriller writing, planting clues and trails and manipulating the reader. It’s also a terrifying portrayal of the extremes of human behaviour under pressure. I would really love to know what others who’ve read it have thought, especially of the final conclusion, so please get in touch… Also, I do wonder if a man would read this book in a different way, so male Gone Girl readers, tell me what you thought. I’m still undecided.

Gone Girl is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

Kate Neilan
@magic_kitten

6 Comments

  • Emily Johnson

    I’m so relieved that someone else reacted to the book the way I did! I was hooked after the first few chapters and soon began to suspect that Amy had fabricated the diary and faked her abduction/murder. However, after a while, the book began to seem like the ultimate mystery novel tour de force, rather than a real character-driven novel. Psychopaths only have so much relevance for me, and the same is true for those who are attracted to them. (Actually, I am more interested in understanding real psychopaths than fictional ones–I’m not sure I believed Amy as a character.)

    I couldn’t put the book down but was glad when it was over. It left me wishing I’d spent the time reading something more satisfying.

    • Adventures With Words

      It’s a real rollercoaster, isn’t it? I really wasn’t sure where I was being taken, it made me quite uneasy at times – it’s certainly a masterpiece of manipulation and writing skill!

  • penfrnd

    “I wanted to root for someone but I just didn’t know where to go.” Exactly my thoughts! But in the end, I was rooting for Nick, completely, wholeheartedly. He seemed to be the wronged guy to me. And I loved the book!

  • Neha Agarwal

    I just completed reading the book and feel myself still trapped in the minds of Amy And Nick (the protagonists). Absolutely brilliant narration by the author and I feel relieved and sorry at the same time that I finished reading it. This novel just took me on a whirlwind of emotion and of absolute addiction and I could not simply put the book down till I completed it.
    It’s truly something which you would beg other people to read so that you can just discuss and do your own postmortem of the cleverly woven plots.
    I don’t want to give away the plot here as I want every reader to exprience that insanity when you read this book.
    Kudos to Gillian Flynn for such a masterpiece.

    • Adventures With Words

      The plotting is masterful, isn’t it? I felt like a mouse being batted around by a clever cat! – Kate

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