You just might have heard about Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I've been a bit behind the times, only picking up the novel this past Christmas, but the book was actually released in June 2012. It made the New York Times Best Sellers List. They're making a fancy Hollywood movie starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike.
Picture courtesy of US Magazine
In other words, there's been a lot of hype.
I think in general, much of it is well-deserved. There are a lot of wonderful things in the story. It has a lot of that classic thriller suspense that keep you wondering what will happen. It's a page-turner.
Without giving away too much, Gone Girl is the story of Nick Dunne and his wife, Amazing Amy... a seemingly perfect couple who have a lot of secrets. They both lose their jobs in the American recession and move back to Nick's economically-crippled hometown. Things take a turn for the worse when Amy mysteriously disappears on their five year wedding anniversary, and Nick, as the husband becomes the only suspect...
This hits on one of my favourite themes of the novel: the media circus that surrounds Amy's disappearance which Flynn explores with breathtaking realism. It is common in our media-centric world for people to get caught up in the he-said she-said of talk-show and gossip commentary. I have seen time and time again when women go missing or are murdered in real life, everyone automatically blames the husband because, statistically, it is usually someone close to the victim that committed the crime. But what does this say about our justice system, our freedoms, the fact that we're supposed to be innocent until proven guilty when one person is universally condemned before a trial even starts? I myself have been guilty of watching Murder Mysteries on television and proclaiming "It's clearly the husband!" without really having proof beyond a reasonable doubt. In this novel, Flynn takes on the Nancy Graces of media and the way so many fall in line after her.
One thing I really appreciated about this novel was the fact that it was narrated by both Nick and Amy, giving a glimpse into the marriage that you might not have seen otherwise. The novel offers the perspective of both parties, something which few novels do. I don't want to give to much away, but the use of unreliable narrators is a clever touch which keeps the reader on their toes. Additionally, there are tons of red herrings and mysteries throughout that keep the reader a little unsure about what exactly is going on.
Flynn also explores the nature of relationships, especially in relation to lies and deceit. When the main characters lose their jobs in the rough economy, Amy sacrifices her New York lifestyle to stay with her husband as they move back to his provincial hometown and Nick tries to give his life worth and meaning by opening a bar with his sister. Although Flynn's writing does seem to hit on some of the complexities that are apparent in real life relationships, as the true story comes in the focus the characters begin to seem more like caricatures than authentic people.
There is something lacking about the book. I had a bit of a hard time pinpointing what exactly it was that I felt was wrong with it, but I've come to the conclusion that the heart of book is missing. There is no character for you to root for... I won't go any further for fear of spoiling the plot twists that really make the book enthralling, but there is just something I could not get past; something fundamentally dissatisfying about the book. I think there's a reason when I finished Gone Girl, I immediately started up with The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (see the next review soon!). I craved the depth of characters who are not only emotionally complex in that they have flaws, but that they also have positive qualities as well. It has been reported that Flynn rewrote the ending of the novel for the film, perhaps this will change my perspective on the characters as well.
That being said, this book got me out of my reading slump I've been in for the last little while (the curse of an English major: you are always stuck reading books other people choose for you) and that is priceless!