Admirers of Gillian Flynn’s previous books, Sharp Objects and Dark Places, will be ecstatic over Gone Girl, her most intricately twisted and deliciously sinister story, dangerous for any reader who prefers to savor a novel as opposed to consuming it whole in one sitting.
Gone Girl is the story of a troubled marriage told not only from the perspectives of both husband and wife but also from different points in their relationship. Nick Dunne’s story starts on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary as he greets his wife, Amy, with rising “bile and dread.” Amy’s story starts several years earlier, in diary form, just after she and Nick meet. The contrast between Nick’s fear and disgust and Amy’s giddy love haze is stark and disturbing. What happened to these two?
Don’t expect a straight answer to that question, though. It’s the backdrop for what follows: Later that day, Nick returns home to find Amy gone, amid evidence of a violent struggle.
As news of Amy’s disappearance spreads throughout their close-knit Missouri town, suspicion naturally focuses on Nick, and given what he’s already revealed within his narrative, plus what we already know about his marital difficulties, readers will find it hard not to doubt his story. Every other page, they will question what they thought for sure they already knew.
I’ll save you some trouble: You don’t know anything.
Flynn excels at creating generally odious characters who still seduce readers into investing in their stories. Nick walks the line between sympathetic and unlikable so carefully that it takes a significant amount of time before you realize he’s a wholly unreliable narrator. Moreover, Flynn sets up a nice dichotomy between Nick’s public persona, the face he shows not only to those concerned for his and Amy’s welfare but also to us, and Amy’s private voice, her unfiltered hopes and fears she reveals, one assumes, to her diary alone.
But the real brilliance of Gone Girl is the way in which it simultaneously embraces and upends the familiar “disappearing spouse” trope while at the same time allowing both partners in this marriage to wax philosophical about issues of identity and intimacy as well as the ways in which pop culture informs our behavior and emotional responses. It’s simply fantastic: terrifying, darkly funny and at times moving. The minute I finished it I wanted to start it all over again.
Michelle Wiener reviewed this book for the Associated Press.