Gillian Flynn: Gone Girl (2012)

Gone Girl

So now I’m one of those who has read Gone Girl. Some bestsellers put me off because everyone reads them, others still make me want to find out what the fuss is all about. Gone Girl was one of the latter. You can’t pick up a recent crime novel without seeing a reference to Gone Girl, you can’t look at agent’s and editor’s picks without seeing it mentioned. Everyone, it seems, is looking for the next Gone Girl. Most of the time when I finally give in and read a book because of the hype, I’m disappointed. In this case it’s not as bad, but I still feel somewhat underwhelmed. Gone Girl has a major plot twist in the middle and an unexpected ending. And it is hugely manipulative, which may be the reason, why I wasn’t surprised by anything. I just felt I was led to assume one thing, while another was true. I saw the twist in the middle coming and foresaw the end. I also had the impression, I’ve read all this before, but I couldn’t come up with a book title. That’s when I realised that it has a similarity with some TV series like Damages and Breaking Bad, which I watched recently. They are both equally full of twists and turns. And I enjoyed them more.

So what’s it all about? On the day of their fifth anniversary beautiful, intelligent and witty Amy Dunne goes missing. A neighbour calls Nick at work and when he returns home, he finds his house wide open. He sees signs of a struggle in the living room and blood in the kitchen. What has happened to Amy? And why is Nick not as concerned as he should be? Police, media, neighbours, and even Amy’s parents, soon turn against Nick and suspect him to be a murderer.

The book is told by both Amy and Nick. Both are highly unreliable narrators. The only thing we know for sure is that their marriage went down the drain when they both lost their jobs and left New York, Amy’s hometown for Nick’s hometown North Carthage, Missouri. If they had only lost their jobs it would have been bad enough, but Amy, who was incredibly rich, loses most of her money. Amy’s psychologist parents are a successful writer duo. Their children’s book series Amazing Amy has earned them a fortune and made Amy into a celebrity. The only problem: the books are not as successful as they used to be. Bad investments and overspending have done the rest. Amy’s parents are broke and need Amy’s money.

Unfortunately it’s hard to write about this book in any depth without spoiling it. I’m glad I’ve read it. I can see why it appeals to many people. Gillian Flynn writes well and plots well. But from a psychological point of view, I found this unsatisfying. Both characters are described in great detail, but they didn’t come to life; they remain shallow, despicable card-board figures. When I think of the aforementioned series Damages, and the character Glenn Close plays, I see why I didn’t really appreciate Gone Girl. Glenn Close’s character is hateful and despicable, but she’s also admirable and touching. A fascinating, toxic mixture. Nick and Amy are just narcissistic ciphers.

Gone Girl is entertaining, but I don’t think it has anything pertinent to say about marriage or relationships, other than dysfunction + dysfunction = ultimate dysfunction. This was my second Gillian Flynn novel and I liked it less than the first, Sharp Objects. I’m curious to find out how Dark Places compares to these two.