This review is spoiler-free.
I finished Gone Girl over the course of a weekend–one of my quicker reads. This is because I could barely put it down. While brushing my teeth: Reading. While eating a meal: Reading. In tiny chunks at my desk at work: Reading.
I was familiar with the plot already, having seen trailers and clips and analyses for the movie on YouTube. (This is something I do on occasion; I’ll absorb a lot of things around the work without actually consuming the work itself. Especially darker works that receive critical acclaim like thrillers and horror, which I normally avoid… for the good reason of the follow-up nightmares. But I’m still compelled to take the work in small doses, wanting to study or reflect on the narratives of good stuff that’s just outside my normal scope.)
So despite knowing how the major plot points unfold, I picked up the novel and devoured it in four days. Why? What compelled me to do this?
Damn. Good. Writing.
This is the kind of novel that reminds me how much I love reading. Every now and then, I’ll pick up a book and find myself almost avoiding it. I’ll feel the need to look in the mirror and ask, “What’s wrong with me? Why am I finding excuses to not read this?”
Barring unusual circumstances that would otherwise prevent me from enjoying reading, I’ve come to the realization: It’s not me.
It’s the book.
Because when the book is good, I’ll fly through it. It’s easy. It’s fun. It’s compelling.
And that’s Gone Girl. The right kind of thriller slash mystery slash psychological screwed-up-ness. The kind that makes you put off your chores or even your hobbies or even your sleep for just a little bit more of that sweet reveal.
So what’s Gone Girl about? Here’s a quick synopsis: On the morning of her fifth year wedding anniversary, Amy Elliot Dunne disappears from her home in Missouri. Her husband, Nick Dunne, comes under scrutiny and then worse as Amy’s diary suggests a darkness in their seemingly perfect marriage.
Told in alternating he-said, she-said chapters, Gillian Flynn‘s characters are psychologically complex. They are meditations on gender roles, parents, misogyny, love, power, truth and, most importantly of all here, marriage. These are intertwined questions.
Take Nick Dunne. He’s a man who has struggled so hard not to be his misogynistic, selfish father that he’s come out the other side almost incapable of expressing his emotions. It turns him into something utterly unsympathetic to the public, despite whatever deep and authentic emotions he feels beneath the surface.
Meanwhile, Amy is beautifully opposite. A woman who can play whatever part her audience needs, regardless of what she feels (or doesn’t feel) inside. She’s a woman whose life was arguably exploited by her parents for a series of book deals, who couldn’t find authenticity with a map.
But don’t feel too sympathetic for anyone here. Part of what I enjoyed about this book is how deeply the flaws run in them and what it leads them to do.
But beyond good characters, you need good plot. Flynn keeps the stakes like a vice around Nick and Amy, ratcheting us up and feeding clues to the mystery at a perfect pace.
And then, of course… the twist! I urge you to stay spoiler-free for this book. It’s worth it.
The only part of the story that felt weak was the denouement. I won’t give away too many details, but certain parts felt anticlimactic. One key scene in particular felt just this shy of unfaithful to the characters. But it was one in a whole book, so I’m not holding (much of) a grudge. And ultimately, I was satisfied with the ending.
My last note: If you’re squeamish about thrillers and mysteries, as I sometimes am, I felt this was a pretty safe read. It was a largely psychological book, something kin to Hitchcock. The violence, language and sexuality were all mild.