Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

by Kristopher Cook
Time to Read: 4 minutes

As the title suggests, the story centres around the disappearance of a woman, Amy, wife of early 30-something Nick.

This’s a tense thriller that plays out with the reader thinking they know what is happening, but quickly everything unravels, new twists are revealed, and you’re left wondering just who’s really who.

Amy’s own personal diary in the first part is unreliable, contradicting what Nick is doing in the present day. This means one of them isn’t telling the truth; or is it both of them?

As with Dark Places, the chapters are intercut between the present day (Nick), and the past year (Amy’s Diary).

Our main protagonist is Nick Dunne, a former journalist and now husband to Amy. After losing his job in New York, he decides him and Amy should move back to his hometown to set-up a pub with his sister Go.

This decision is the leading cause of friction between the couple.

The story’s antagonist, Amy Dunne, goes missing on their fifth anniversary. What appears at first to be a breaking of entry and possible homicide quickly spirals into a game of cat and mouse.

Gillian Flynn has said herself that the goal of Nick and Amy is to get the reader (spouses) to ‘look askance at each other’. I think it’s fair to say she succeeded.

Harmful Relationships lead to Deadly Actions

Toxic relationships built up by a manipulating individual(s) is nothing new in fiction; see Lolita, Revolutionary Road and Rabbit, Run.

As the story progresses, more is learnt about the two characters, leaving the reader with the opportunity to begin piecing together their lives and how they got to this stage.

Give me a man with a little fight in him, a man who calls me on my bullshit. (But who also kind of likes my bullshit.)

Gillian Flynn, AMY ELLIOTT / SEPTEMBER 18, 2005

Nonetheless, Amy possesses complete manipulative behaviour when it comes to getting what she wants from her marriage, making Nick suffer for most of it.

When she does decide to make that final leap and disappear, it’s obvious she’ll do whatever it takes for a happy life. And by happy I mean get precisely what she wants no matter the cost of anyone else’s welfare.                                                                                           

I’m still gripped by this book several weeks after finishing it. It has such a hold on my psyche that I can’t seem to shake it. So many points are rolling through my mind, and no matter how much I try to pull it apart; it all seems to make sense.

Sure, there are a few coincidences in there, but a lot of books do this, the only difference being that well-written ones can get away with it. If a book is engaging, then I tend to give it an easier time in terms of clichés and tropes.

Just Like The Movies

There’s a recurring theme running through Gone Girl of the characters comparing their life and/or decisions to a movie. Plenty of ‘this is how it is in the movies’ all the way through, on both Amy and Nick’s sides.

Rosamund Pike and  Ben Affleck as the estranged coupe in Gone Girl (Film 2014).
Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck as the estranged couple in Gone Girl (Film 2014).

This theme runs parallel to the ‘Amazing Amy’ books that are written by Amy’s parents. Initially a success, they failed to evolve with the times and came to a standstill later on.

Both of these media forms are narratives in their own way, visual representations of how life should be. The glamour of the movies played off against the amazing life of Amy; both of which have happy endings, unlike the real world.

Speaking of endings, I won’t spoil it, but I did feel the conclusion of this book a little rushed and haphazard.

It was satisfying to a degree but not in tune with the rest of the book, leading the book to feel more like a movie in the end than it may be intended.

Stranger Than Fiction

There are parts of Gone Girl, Nick’s scenes, in particular, that remind me of The Disappearance of Lucie Blackman.

Bloggers are turning up to trials to post their opinions online. Amateur journalists are wanting to make a name for themselves – and then there’s the mystery of the disappearance itself.

Much like Lucie Blackman, Amy disappears under mysterious circumstances, leaving many to speculate who’s to blame. Nick, much like Lucie’s Father Tim, doesn’t portray himself in the best of light; smirking in news conferences, being unemotional and calm, not to mention enjoying being the centre of attention for a while.

Flynn has never mentioned the stories that prompted her to write Gone Girl, and I doubt she ever will, but it goes to show that even when many praise an original premise such as this, it’s been done before in real life.

Closing Thoughts

Gone Girl, like Flynn’s previous books, is a disturbing read but nevertheless gripping.

There’s a morbid fascination that comes with looking at a car crash. You know that on the other side is a total disaster, carnage and possible death, but somehow you still want to see it.

It’s this ‘car crash curiosity’ that Flynn conveys so brilliantly in Gone Girl.

In my opinion, I think Sharp Objects is her best book, but Gone Girl isn’t far behind.

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