Author: Gillian Flynn
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson/ Crown
Publication date: January 2012
Hardcover: 419 pages
Marriage can be a real killer.
One of the most critically acclaimed suspense writers of our time, New York Times bestseller Gillian Flynn takes that statement to its darkest place in this unputdownable masterpiece about a marriage gone terribly, terribly wrong. The Chicago Tribune proclaimed that her work “draws you in and keeps you reading with the force of a pure but nasty addiction.” Gone Girl’s toxic mix of sharp-edged wit and deliciously chilling prose creates a nerve-fraying thriller that confounds you at every turn.
On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’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?
As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?
With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
How did we get this book: Bought
Format (e- or p-): eBook (Kobo & Nook)
Why did we read this book: It was one of our first choices for this Mystery Appreciation Week because of how much we heard about this book last year. Plus, it was reviewed EVERYWHERE and positively too making several Top Reads of 2012 Lists.
**WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS EXPLICIT LANGUAGE, CAPS LOCK OF RAGE, AND OCCASIONAL SPOILERS (we will let you know when spoilers kick in). You have been warned.**
(There will be spoilers, but I’ll give you warning when they kick in.)
I started Gone Girl knowing only these things.
Gone Girl is:
A. One of the bestselling books of 2012, recipient of multiple awards from critics and readers alike, across genres and categories.
B. Gillian Flynn’s latest novel, with a rumored HUGE twist somewhere in its 500 pages.
C. Supposedly contains a razor-wire plot, and is some kind of examination of perfection, marriage, and murder in small town, Missouri.
I finished the book in less than 24 hours, compulsively turning page after page, needing to know what would happen next, who to trust, how it would all end. And, at the end, I can add one more thing to the list of things I know about this book:
D. A brilliantly written and plotted mystery, a miasma of wretchedness and hate; a book that I devoured but deeply, utterly abhorred.
I will try to do this as spoiler-free as possible. Gone Girl is the alternating point-of-view, semi-epistolary novel that tells two stories about Nick and Amy. In the first story, Amy met Nick in 2005 and falls in love with him. They get married. It is blissful. Amy is the Best Possible Wife, she’s funny, and smart, and beautiful, and RICH. Things start to go sour, however, when Nick loses his job, and then Amy loses her job and her money, and they move to Nick’s small hometown of Middle of Nowhere, MO, to take care of Nick’s dying mother (cancer) and father (Alzheimer’s). Amy is attentive. She is supportive. She still loves the idea of her husband, though she knows things are falling apart. Nick becomes abusive, hateful, hurtful. And then Amy disappears – just, gone without a trace. In this first story, Nick is Amy’s foil and tells his version of events, after Amy’s disappearance. In his narrative, Amy is brilliant and beautiful, but also controlling, resentful, and hateful. Their marriage is a sham. Amy’s disappearance puts Nick in the crosshairs of the police as the killer – and as the days after Amy’s disappearance pass, the evidence against Nick mounts.
And then there’s the second story – and therein lie spoilers. Because everything we think we know about Amy and Nick? It’s wrong. Amy is not who we think she is, and Nick is…well, ok Nick is still douchetastically pathetic. In this second story, we learn more about this toxic couple from hell, and the pit of spite and grief that is their marriage.
Like the novel’s dual plot, I’m of two minds when it comes to Gone Girl.
On the one side, I can appreciate Gillian Flynn’s skill as a writer. She creates two (ok, three) characters that are completely distinct, and she alternates these points of view with incredible deftness and ease, building a complex narrative – a complex crime – that is deeply disturbing but brilliantly executed. The big “twist” is perhaps not such a twist (you kind of expect it, or you at least know that something is going to happen, that you aren’t playing with a full deck of cards), but it’s done really, really well. The first part of the book makes you question what you know about these characters, their lives and their secrets. Everyone is unreliable, everything is questionable. This is all really fucking good.
But then, there’s the other side of Gone Girl: the badness, the utter RIDICULOUSNESS of certain developments, the hate that pervades the novel to its rotten-apple core. This, I did not like. I detested the characters, from the unparalleled pathetic misogynistic doucheparade that is Nick to the many different iterations of the “brilliant” Amy. I hated the way the story develops in the second part of the book, and I especially hated the way that it ends. I hated the pointlessness of the story – why does it need to be told? What does it accomplish? What does it say about us, as people?
And here come the **SPOILERS** because certain things need to be SAID:
Nick. I can’t really waste too much space on Nick, because he is wholly and utterly pathetic. He whines, he pretends, he is so full of incompetence and ennui and self-important horseshit. He lost his job because TEH INTERWEBS ARE EVIL. No, seriously, he’s unemployed because *whines* people don’t read REAL magazines anymore and the BLOGS are killing everything and these HACKS are destroying the printed word and he’s a REAL JOURNALIST and goddammit he’s someone IMPORTANT and why can’t anyone else understand that? He’s GORGEOUS and all the women want to jump on his disco stick, and Nick hates them all for it – women are just things to him. They are cunts, or psycho bitches, or trying too hard (these are all Nick’s words, of course). He wants to be a MAN and Amy – brilliant, beautiful, spoiled, vindictive, Amy – has stolen that from him. And then, that psycho bitch Amy fucks with Nick’s life, and Nick has to figure out how to prove his innocence because all of a sudden NICK IS THE GOOD GUY.
Which brings me to Amy. It turns out that Amy is not the eager to please doormat that she presents herself as in the first part of the book. No, she is an honest to goodness sociopath that has elaborately planned and framed her cheating pathetic loser of a husband for her death. It’s not the first time, either! She’s ruined female friends, and men that have DARED to cross her/make her unhappy (by claiming RAPE, or that people are obsessed with her, and so on and so forth). Amy is brilliant and vindictive, cruel and efficient in her mastermind scheme to bring Nick DOWN. As sick as it is, I actually liked the first twist: Amy’s edge, revealed in the second part of the book, when we find out Amy is alive and that everything she’s written in the first part of the book is a lie. But then, everything starts to unravel and Amy is made out to be not only a people-hating manipulating sociopath, but a completely incompetent one, to boot – she is suckered into a relationship with her neighbors while she’s in hiding and is robbed for all her money (she only lasts for 9 days before she’s robbed! COME ON!). She BELIEVES Nick when he goes on TV and earnestly pleads for his wife to come home, so she does it just like that. Are you fucking kidding me? THESE are the actions of the same methodical, patient mind that came up with this elaborate revenge scheme against her husband? I repeat: ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?
She then fucks, and kills, and makes her way back into her husband’s life. She then TRAPS her husband into silence and complacence with a Miracle Baby (it’s a BOY of course!) and that makes Nick stay with her forever and always.
And that is the end of Gone Girl.
There are plenty of other problems, too, but Ana has covered them all, below. Frankly, I’m exhausted, and I don’t want to waste any more time or thought on this novel.
I’m done writing now.
Gone Girl is one of the most ridiculous books I have ever read, one that comes with an inordinate amount of hype and disguised as a “clever”, “dark”, twisterific thriller that supposedly deals with serious shit like “when a marriage go bad”.
It follows the story of Nick and Amy’s marriage. It opens on the day of their fifth anniversary, the day when Amy goes missing. Soon – as these things go – the investigators start to focus on the husband. But is Nick guilty? Did he really kill his wife? If not, what happened to Amy?
It’s divided in three parts and in part one, the narrative alternates between Nick’s first person narrative as he deals with Amy’s disappearance and Amy’s journal. As the plot progresses, their story is slowly revealed to the reader:
Amy is a WEALTHY, BRILLIANT, BEAUTIFUL, COOL New Yorker whose parents write the Amazing Amy children stories. Nick is a BRILLIANT, HANDSOME journalist writing about pop culture for a magazine. Until Nick lost his job (because the INTERNET IS EVIL), Amy lost hers, and they need to move to Nick’s hometown in Missouri to take care of his sick mother. Their marriage was already shaky but it’s in Missouri that things start to really fall part between them. This part of the story is basically about Privileged White People’s Problems and both come across as entitled WANKERS – especially the aloof man-child Nick who, once his marriage starts to fall apart and money problems hit them, cheats on his wife with a much younger girl (his student). It would be a very familiar and trite story except for the fact that Amy’s journal entries start to show a different side of Nick: one that is increasingly abusive and scary. All of a sudden and in spite of Nick’s protestations, it is obvious that he is hiding something and he might after all, be guilty.
Then comes part 2 and the twist: Amy knew that Nick had been cheating on her and for the past year she created this elaborate plan to disappear and frame Nick for her “killing” as vengeance. As such, her diaries entries are all faked concoctions. It becomes clear then that Amy is really, a psychopath. Parts two and three deal with Amy’s attempted revenge, Nick’s realisation of how far his wife really will go, all leading to the eventual showdown between them as Nick wants her back so he can clear his name and maybe kill her or something equally unpleasant.
Gone Girl almost had me there for a while – I can vouch for how incredibly readable and engaging it is. I could not put it down and I had to find out what was going to happen to these people. I also thought that structurally speaking – with the alternating unreliable narratives – the novel was competent. It was also a success in the way that it portrayed its two deeply unpleasant, unlikeable main characters. The reader is supposed to despise these people, and loathe them I certainly did although it made for a fucking unpleasant reading experience. Plus, really, these types of “dark” characters BORE ME TO DEATH. But ok fine, this is a very personal reaction.
The thing is: because the two narratives don’t exactly fit together in part one, it is obvious that at least one of them is an unreliable narrator, possibly the two. And if a reader is used to reading epistolary novels, unreliable narrators and thrillers, it is easy to know that a twist is coming. Considering all this, is the main twist even that surprising?
That said, this is not my main point of contention with the novel. The recurring themes are what give me pause for thought.
It is possible to argue that the one of the main themes of Gone Girl is its thoughtful examination of marriage difficulties; or to question how well two people can really know each other or allow the other to know you and, unfair expectations. The problem is: the novel cannot possibly be indicative of all marriages or a heartfelt exploration of this theme because NOT EVERYBODY IS A VINDICTIVE PSYCHOPATH OR A WHINNY MAN-CHILD WITH SOCIOPATHIC TENDENCIES. Unless you know, you want argue that one can never know who one has married because maybe, just maybe your husband/wife is planning RIGHT NOW to fake-kill themselves and frame you because you didn’t wash the dishes after dinner that one time. SO you know, BE CAREFUL. This means that the book only really works on its own microcosm of darkness.
Another recurring theme throughout is the question of misogyny. Nick’s father is a deeply misogynistic character and Nick hates his father and lives under the constant fear that he too, might be misogynistic. This is really interesting in the way that it explores the difficulty in getting away from one’s upbringing. Amy on the other hand, is presented as a (kind of) feminist with her astute observations about social gender constructs by constantly calling on the bullshit of unfair social expectations around her gender. So on a cursory glance one could argue that the book is feminist. I’d argue against that. WHOLEHEARTEDLY.
What else could I argue when the only obvious feminist character turns out to be a psychopath who HATES EVERY OTHER WOMAN she knows, lies about having being raped, about being stalked and eventually “traps” her husband by becoming pregnant. When the entire story is eventually contrived to show Amy as the True Villain and Nick as the one Nice Guy (despite his aloofness, his cheating, his lies and his manipulative strike) who is not REALLY a misogynist because he doesn’t hate ALL FUCKING BITCHES, he only hates his PSYCHO BITCH wife (his choice of words, not mine, by the way). He is also the one who in the end, needs to contain the psycho bitch by staying with her and helping her bringing up their child. So then all of a sudden this passive-aggressive, liar, stunted, cheater is the HERO?
And you could argue that these PEOPLE ARE HORRID and so of course, it all makes sense. But the NARRATIVE SUPPORTS ALL THIS SHITNESS by presenting every other woman in this novel as HORRIBLE PEOPLE TOO, without nuance. Well, apart from the two obviously good characters who are sympathetic TOWARD NICK: there is this one female cop who just “knows” he must be innocent and his own twin sister who is DUH OBVIOUSLY, so perfect and of course unlike any other woman. Plus, the one guy that Amy has accused of rape turns out to be innocent because really, he is just a Nice Guy and we all know that only ALPHA GUYS are rapists. Nice Guys are NEVER RAPISTS. EVER.
Not to mention that the book COMPLETELY lacks internal logic. The one main thread of the book, the one point that is laboriously written through the first two parts is how Amy is incredibly smart and brilliant. She has to be, in order to manipulate, concoct and maintain all the plans she has over the course of her short life. But then get this, right? Nick concocts his own plan to make Amy change her mind and come back. And his plan consists of appearing live on TV and saying that he forgives her, that he understands who she really is and he loves her anyway. That’s his plan. AND IT WORKS. Amy – psychopath, brilliant Amy – has a change of heart almost as immediately as she watches his interview. And that’s because according to Nick, Amy lacks a “bullshit detector”. BUT the first half of the book was all about setting up and making sure we understood how much of a bullshit detector Amy actually had.
So which one is it? Either she is a brilliant psychopath or a gullible idiot. SHE CAN NOT BE BOTH, BOOK.
And I am going to nitpick too: Nick is in his early thirties buy he sounds fucking ancient. Like the whole whinny “the internet killed my career” thing when he is at the right age to actually know how to take advantage of the Internet? Please.
In summation: I devoured Gone Girl but I fucking hated it.
Ana: 4 – Bad but not without some merit
Thea: I have no idea how to rate this book. It is a brilliantly written book, but I hated reading it. I will abscond from a number grade, and that is all.
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