Author: Gillian Flynn (former writer and critic for Entertainment Weekly)
Genre: fiction—mystery and detective… literal insanity in marriage
Reviewer Age Rating: 15+ (strong language, some sexual content)
Printing: 2012 hardcover, first edition; 419 pages (includes blank pages)
Flynn would like to dedicate the novel…
To Brett: light of my life, senior; and, Flynn: light of my life, junior
MARRIAGE CAN BE A REAL KILLER.
On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy (Elliot) Dunn’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River.
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?
Word of MouthPraise. #1 New York Times Bestseller, for good reason.
“[F]avorite novel of 2012. Brilliant.” —Kate Atkinson
“[O]ne of the best and most frightening portraits of psychopathy I’ve ever read.” —Tana French
“[A]mazing. Read the book and you’ll discover … just how much freight (and fright) that last adjective can bear.” —Scott Smith
“A devastating portrait of a marriage and a timely, cautionary tale about an age in which everyone’s dreams seem to be imploding.” —Laura Lippman
“Gone Girl is like Scenes from a Marriage remade by Alfred Htichcock … It’s a love story wrapped in a mystery …” —Adam Ross
“Gone Girl manages to be so many stellar things all at once … as well as beautifully plotted an fiercely well written.” —Kate Christensen
“Gone Girl reminds me of Patricia Highsmith at the top of her game … [Here, Flynn has] placed herself at the top of the short list …” —Karin Slaughter
“Considering how compulsively I kept coming back for more, I am seriously thinking of going back to page one and doing it all again.” —Arthur Phillips
That’s one accurate word to describe this novel. I couldn’t put it down! Answers, answers!… It deserves that other silly word given—in its extended blurb: unputdownable.
Amy has disappeared. Nick is soon suspect. The public can and will turn on him at any moment, and the plot unravels even more uncomfortably.
The characters express themselves in a manner raw—the full thought process, at first the way they would in public if you were to give them a stiff drink. But someone is deceitful to the bone—someone’s taking advantage of everyone around him/her.
Nick Flynn (born Lance) immediately comes off as a “lying dick” in a sort of paranoia—the clock reads exactly 6 a.m., “6-0-0 the clock said—in my face, the first thing I saw,” as if…; the sun shines in, through the window, as if… Nick is also a bit obsessed with Amy, as the book begins:
When I think of my wife, I always think of her head. … The very first time I saw her, it was the back of the head … and there was something lovely about it, the angles of it. Like a shiny, hard corn kernel or a riverbed fossil. She had what the Victorians would call a finely shaped head. You could imagine the skull quite easily.
I’d know her head anywhere.
And what’s inside it.
…Oh, big mistake on his part, with that last sentence…
Even at the press conference, it’s as if Amy’s eyes—from even the cutout of her head—are following him around. But there’s a clear and innocent reason for this.
As the plot moves on, at least Nick admits his lies, while Amy’s diary (carefully interspersed in the timeline) admits to no whoppers whatsoever. Could she be that pure? It slowly becomes clear what is going on, and what had happened at the house.
And then the carpet is completely yanked from underneath the reader’s feet.
Someone so close is a complete and utter psychopath. (I won’t tell you who it is, so I don’t spoil the surprise.)
The book comes in three parts, each of them a shock. It takes the whole first two parts to finally get to the real killer—who it is, and how dangerous he/she is. I may have been able to figure out each big twist before it arrives, but the book is so well written that I did not stop reading. (Honest; I missed sleep.)
It’s all cute and everything that Amy puts on a Treasure Hunt every year, every anniversary, in her marriage with Nick. And it’s also painful, not just because she’s a genius, eventually stumping Nick—a college grad like her, but in how it’s twisted and used against him when she’s pissed.
Oh, it’s creepy—the book. You don’t quite know what the characters are capable of until you keep reading. The book will keep you guessing on a number things.
To make things even more complicated, Nick—the professor, as his career was ended by the digital age—has been cheating on his wife with one of his college students for a year.
Add the fact that everyone in the immediate family really loves each other—at least in his/her own way, for as long as possible—and you see the brilliance in this novel. Gillian Flynn manages to capture a darkness that exists in bad relationships, and take it to a whole new level.
Nick, and Margo (or “Go”), his sister, may be close, but the psycho he doesn’t know—and doesn’t reveal when he does—knows him better. Too well.
Do I really know (my spouse, sibling, relative, etc.)? How did we get here? The book serves as a warning when it comes to meeting, befriending and marrying people.
And that cheaters don’t win.
…What are you thinking, Amy? The question I’ve asked most often … if not out loud, if not to the person who could answer. I suppose these questions stormcloud over every marriage: What are you thinking? How are you feeling? Who are you? What have we done to each other? What will we do?
It’s a tragic tale in a way, how the life of the family is snuffed out—the full potential—by the actual psycho in the room. The person you are sleeping with may very well kill you… Take that fear and run with it. (And that’s what Gillian Flynn did, in detail.)
Dishonesty Literally Kills Relationships
Nick loses himself and gets fat, and Amy refuses to be genuine. So the marriage falls apart. And the blame and hatred and resentment whenever consequence arrives…things become predictably worse—but not predictable in how, with this novel.
The psychopath (I won’t identify) never gets it, attributing all slips of control to a lack of power. He/she remains a disbeliever of unconditional love, as expressed explicitly in the book.
There’s that psychological aspect to the novel, however expressed a little too eagerly—or explicitly without asking, in my view. Real life doesn’t reveal it’s underbelly in spoken language; it usually has to be researched and interviewed, as Flynn should know.
“Jumping the gun” there is part of what I didn’t like about the book. Flynn is a journalist who worked for EW, not a full-blown psychologist. She tried, but sometimes it’s a little weak. (For her sake, the psychology isn’t perfect in most fiction novels anyway.)
But Kudos to her for illustrating the nature of the “dick” (of a character, deliberate or not): having either too little or too much control.
The first part (Boy Loses Girl) is brilliant and well-detailed. So much work was put into it—beyond expectations. Almost/perhaps flawless. But the second part and third kind of drift, as if someone got tired or the writer or editor thought the reader would get tired. These parts—a little inconsistent with the first—fairly easily reveal the fact that the novel is work of fiction, with tastes and dialogue coming from a limited number of people.
There’s kind of a revelation there: in order to write the perfect work of fiction you very well have to think like a psychopath, fooling everyone, for the entire piece of work. Much like…ooh, I must not spoil it.
Maybe it was decided in the editing process to abbreviate the third part—don’t want to stress out the reader, with such an addictive novel. There are numerous single-page chapters (expressed in days “gone” or “returned”; no chapter numbers).
So I can’t quite call Gone Girl a masterpiece, as some have. (It’s not War and Peace.) But it is one of the best crime novels ever written. I’ll give Flynn that. Grade: A
(Likely Award-Winning) 2014 Film Adaptation
Claudia Puig (USA Today) gave the movie four out of four stars, claiming the theatrical version—only somewhat different from the novel—better than the book. According to Puig, director David Fincher took the film adaptation to an even higher level.
Ben Affleck does a superb job as Nick, as well as Rosamund Pike as Amy; Carrie Coon plays Margo, and Tyler Perry plays the lawyer—no longer the flashy white expensive attorney that gets off the worst-looking characters you can think of in publicized trials.
Puig, I think, made an error in her review: “Key players include … Nick’s sister (Carrie Coon) and a phalanx of scandal-hungry reporters.” Phalanx here means ‘fingers’; in other words “a fingers of reporters”? Should be “the phalanx of…” Just sayin’.