by Gillian Flynn
Original Publication Date: May 2012
Length: 395 pages
Obtained Via: Library
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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?
Gone Girl is the story of Terrible People behaving Terribly(yes, the capitalized letters are there for a reason–Nick & Amy’s terribleness is so terrible that it’s become a separate proper noun in my mind). Which is not to say that I didn’t find Gone Girl intriguing and, if I must admit, entertaining. However, I also felt like I needed to take a shower afterwards just to get the grossness of bad humanity off of me, and this is coming from a girl who loved Dear Killer.
Gone Girl started slow, by introducing me to Nick and Amy and their super-first world problems: they used to have all the money in the world, now they don’t, now they’re having to think things through, etc. It wasn’t a super compelling first few chapters, really. However, once Amy disappears and becomes the Gone Girl, the book picks up a bit. I found myself putting off lunch just so I could finish the book.
For the first half of the book, the story is told through Nick’s point of view with chapters from Amy’s diary. In the latter half, we actually get to see inside Amy’s head and the disconnect between Nick and Amy’s stories. Now, Nick and Amy are both terrible, terrible people. I find myself sometimes enjoying reading about horrible people, don’t get me wrong, but it was a bit much at times. Every single character in Gone Girl is awful person, really, except maybe Nick’s sister Go. And I found this a bit strange. I can see Amy and Nick being attracted to each other, but I find it hard to believe that there are that many almost-sociopaths in such close proximity to each other.
While I definitely thought the writing and the overall story in Gone Girl was compelling(albeit in a bit of a train wreck way), I had some issues with the characterization and some of the the themes in Gone Girl. I can’t go much into the plot of the book without spoiling things, so this review is definitely character-focused.
First, at times, Amy seems like a complete sociopath. For a long time, I thought that’s how Flynn was portraying here, and was doing a stunning job. But Amy’s characterization seemed too. . . disjointed for my liking. Amy is clever, incredibly clever, as far as we can see in flashbacks(and towards the end). But in the middle Amy does some of the stupidest things she can possibly do. She does also sometimes seem to have strong emotions towards Nick(and not all of the “anger” and “murderous” variety, though those may be in there), which just left me confused. For Amy to be so brilliant, she sure can act dumb. For Amy to be so unemotional, she sure sometimes acts on emotions. It felt too convenient–like Amy was supposed to be a tried and trued sociopath but then it was easier for the plot for her not to be halfway through.
Nick has a much more consistent characterization. He’s still part of the Terrible People doing Terrible things camp, but at least it’s the same through and through. I found my feelings towards Nick much more fascinating. Most of the time I hated him(it’s the kind of book where you hate everyone), but yet I still found myself feeling sorry for him for time to time. Gone Girl is not the kind of story where you have someone to root for. It’s the kind of story where you have to decide who is the lesser of two evils.
Something I found highly problematic in Gone Girl, however, was the portrayal of women. First you have Amy, who’s a bit crazy and hates everyone, so, okay there. And Nick hates women. He says he doesn’t(there’s actually a point in the book he thinks something to the affect of “I don’t hate women, but. . .), though he totally does, a trait inherited from his dad. Every woman is a “stupid bitch” to him. I could handle that, because hey, we’re already in terrible people camp. But time and time again, the narrative proves Nick right. The women in this book–every single one of them–is cast into the most negative light. I suppose you could argue that most of the men are too, since it’s a book about Terrible People, but the women definitely bear the brunt of the insults for infidelity, stupidity, and just the general terribleness. It’s not even so much Nick’s inner thoughts, since he’s been established as a pathetic person already–it’s more of how they narrative of this book never counteracts it. More than anything else in this book, that’s what made me feel a bit gross after reading.
My last complaint is the pacing. It’s definitely not even all the way through, and picks up in the middle of Gone Girl just to settle down before the ending(which was a disappointment). I was promised twists and turns and I never really got any. Gone Girl didn’t really need the twist and turns to be compelling, but because I was expecting them I was let down when they weren’t there at all.
Despite my multitude of complaints, I actually really enjoyed Gone Girl, though perhaps not as much as everyone else. I just really felt the need to detail the things that took away from the story for me because they were pretty major disappointments throughout. However, there is something endlessly fascinating about the peak into this marriage that Flynn has set up–an union of awful people, doing terrible things, but who are both dazzling in their plans. While I certainly hope that no one I know in life is secretly an Amy or a Nick, I had to know how their story ended.
I feel conflicted on Gone Girl overall. I loved the gritty portrayal of terrible people, but there were so many speed bumps in my reading journey that caused me to lose some of the enjoyable reading experiences. If you’re the type of reader that has to like a character to like a book, Gone Girl is not for you. If, however, you enjoy the dark places of the human mind, I might recommend it. Overall, I had some issues with Gone Girl, but I can’t argue with how the story sucked me in or how I was constantly intrigued. 3/5 cupcakes.