Gone Girl is the 2012 thriller by Gillian Flynn and tells the story of Nick Dunne, under suspicion of killing his wife Amy.
I came to this book without expectations. It seems everyone but I had heard of it and already added it to their Goodreads “Want to Read” bookshelf, but it’s all in character for me, so I shouldn’t be surprised. That being said, I only got to page 16 before I decided I loved this book. Gillian (like my name, so we’re practically twins!) Flynn’s Gone Girl is a perfect specimen for a morbid curiosity. The girl in question is Amy Elliott Dunne, the supposed victim in a missing person’s case. Her husband Lance Nicholas “Nick” Dunne is the supposed perpetrator (because it’s always the husband, right?). Amy and Nick are beautiful, successful, clever, and bursting with love for each other, but when both are laid off, the initial spark of their marriage dies out, and a family crisis uproots them from their beloved Manhattan and lands them in Nick’s rural Missouri hometown of North Carthage, the two are embroiled in a battle of wit, sadism, and manipulation. You won’t be able to tear your eyes away from this train wreck, and you may think you can predict the outcome (and maybe you’re better at that than I am), but you will enjoy the unfolding of this disastrous relationship the whole time.
Here’s my one photo of the Mississippi as I passed through St. Paul on a cross-country train ride. Nick’s hometown of North Carthage sits on the banks of the Mississippi, so I imagined the setting of Gone Girl to be similar to this: covered in an ominous, morning fog. I wonder if you could float a body down the Mississippi all the way to the Ocean …
My one serious query to Flynn is whether or not she made the neuroses of these characters too typical, too gendered, too easy. She’s created a modern day “hysterical woman,” another Madame Bovary, another madwoman who needs to be locked in an attic. While, with Nick, Flynn transported a needy man-child straight out of a Philip Roth or Jonathan Franzen novel. But in the end, the author shows her skill as a writer in alternating chapters of Amy’s and Nick’s points of view, and keeps them human (not stereotypes or shadows of humans) by staying in their respective crazy heads. Nick’s narrative remains in the “present,” beginning with the day of Amy’s mysterious disappearance. The door to their North Carthage McMansion is left open, the living room is in foreboding disarray, and Amy is gone. Amy’s narrative follows her diaries, beginning with the day she “met a boy.” Even though Amy is gone from the present story line, we still hear her smart-talking, giddy voice through these entries. Too often does an author try to achieve multiple points of view, but ends up creating a schizophrenic break of the one character (or themselves). Flynn, though, switches between the cynical, self-pitying, tortured voice of Nick and the enraged, entitled, embittered voice of Amy with surprising credibility and ease. The beauty of Flynn’s writing is the slow easing into an understanding of the characters’ psychoses. The reader is like a frog in slowly boiling water. The next thing you know, you’ve been cooked by all the crazy.
Gone Girl is all about identities: Internal Nick versus Public Nick, Diary Amy versus Real Amy. Apparently, Christian Bale is the very definition of schizophrenia because his image was the first in a Google image search. I think he would have been a fantastic Nick in the film adaptation. This photo is extra relevant since my next read is American Psycho. (Pic from Science News to You)
Flynn’s host of side characters set the scene of North Carthage perfectly: Nick’s twin sister Margo and Alzheimer’s-afflicted father paint the perfect picture of our male protagonist: the baby of the family, the man whose brief interaction with his father was to glimpse misogyny at its worst; Detectives Boney and Gilpin, whose calm, small-town demeanor mask two sharp minds that don’t miss a beat; Rand and Marybeth Elliott, Amy’s lovey dovey, child psychologist parents and best-selling co-authors of the children’s book series Amazing Amy; and a whole host of townspeople and neighbors, all ready to claim Amy as the their best friend, and all ready to pick up pitchforks and torches. Despite the fact that we’re stuck in Amy’s and Nick’s heads, these side characters don’t disappoint in their fullness and distinctness.
Gone Girl isn’t just a story of a couple with couple-y problems. It’s the story of two people with serious, psychological issues, including the intensity of their gender stereotypes. I don’t want any potential readers to be deterred from this novel because it’s about a marriage. Nick’s and Amy’s relationship make the story that much more frighteningly good, because it’s fraught with all the sexual, gender, and marital tension you can imagine. Flynn’s understanding of psychology and obvious skill at mystery narratives make Gone Girl an intense and constantly entertaining read, with a (no spoilers!) killer ending that will leave you 100% satisfied. In fact, I’m not sure any book I’ve read this year can quite match the ending I just read, but that may be because I’m still coming off of a Gillian-Flynn high. Make sure you read this book, preferably before you get married and/or move to rural Missouri, and preferably before the David Fincher film adaptation comes out next year.
The film adaptation of Gone Girl has already been cast: Ben Affleck takes the lead with Rosamund Pike–a big transition for Pike from cutie roles like Jane Bennet to cold, calculating Amy Dunne. Who would you have cast? (Pic from BuzzSugar)