On a warm summer morning in Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made, when all of a sudden, Nick’s clever and equally beautiful wife disappears from their home. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media, as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents, Nick isn’t doing himself any favours as he parades around creating an endless series of lies, deceit and inappropriate behaviour. Nick is oddly evasive and he’s definitely bitter which, coupled with the staged crime scene, makes him the number one suspect. But, is he really the killer?
Gone Girl is an astounding novel. Twisted, disturbing and horrifying from beginning to end, it’s one of the best psychological thrillers I’ve read in a long time. Alternating between both Amy and Nick’s point of view, Flynn excellently uses this narrative device to continuously shift the reader’s allegiance to our two protagonists. Manipulating us with her compulsive writing, she makes it easy to identify with both Amy and Nick, and it slowly becomes apparent that finding out who to root for when Amy disappears and Nick becomes the prime suspect isn’t going to be easy. Primarily a character study rather than plot-focused, Gone Girl is a novel in which when you think you’re 100% certain what is going on, Flynn throws a massive twist into the narrative, changing everything you thought you knew.
In addition to the constant battle the reader has in understanding Amy and Nick, the side characters in the novel are equally as interesting with Go and Tanner Bolt being, in my opinion, two of the most intriguing. Go’s unrelenting loyalty to her brother, despite the secrets that become unveiled is a testament to the relationship between siblings. In addition, there’s one scene where Bolt and his wife are preparing Nick for an upcoming interview and it becomes apparent the extent to which an individual can manipulate their body language and words to change their perception in the media, whether they are guilty of the crime or not. Ultimately, Flynn has created some of the most unforgettable characters yet.
“Nick Dunne took my pride and my dignity and my hope and my money. He took and took from me until I no longer existed. That’s murder.”
On the surface, the novel appears as a thriller. But it is also much more than that. Flynn expertly takes the common marital concerns about money and parenthood and turns it into a dark, psychological portrayal of love. Written with a line of anger than runs neatly throughout each chapter, the novel gives us an intimate insight into Amy and Nick’s relationship, of which many married couples will be able to relate to. The novel also interrogates how easily we are influenced to see a person as guilty or innocent as the media becomes a figure of authority. Nick constantly battles for the sympathy of the public as they paint him as a cheating wife-killer, highlighting how murder suspects are often harassed by the media and even found guilty by the public before a case has even made it to trial.
Pace wise, Gone Girl is very much a slow-burn novel. Flynn expertly strings you along for a total of 400 pages and while it can appear slow at times, the story does pick up and I beg of you to stick with it and do not google any spoilers. While I had seen the film adaptation before reading the novel, the book still managed to surprise me several times. So, if you stick with it, I promise you, you will be rewarded by the end.
However, despite my love for this novel, there are some inconsistencies which bugged me. Amy is portrayed as possibly one of the smartest women ever. She can outwit the police, never leaves a single trace of her plan, and is constantly pre-empting their behaviour. Yet, she keeps all her money with her instead of stashing some of it elsewhere in case of an emergency? She isn’t able to escape the two characters in the motel before anything disastrous occurs? Frankly, it seemed out of character for me that she was left vulnerable in these scenes when in the rest of the narrative, she’s been portrayed as a resilient woman, capable of framing her husband.
Ultimately, there’s a lot of people who are going to relate to this book, people who are like Nick and Amy and Flynn expertly shows that any of us could end up in a relationship as toxic as the one in this novel. But for me, that’s why it’s such an excellent book. It’s suspenseful, it’s realistic, it’s shocking and most of all, it’s addictive. I thoroughly recommend to anyone who loves a good thriller with twists and turns you just cannot call.
And as for Nick and Amy? They simply deserve each other.