Monday, September 17, 2012

Book Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Yes, everyone is reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. And yes, it's really that good. I started reading it last week on Friday evening and finished it the next afternoon, because I couldn't put it down. I read while I brushed my hair, while I cooked, and even while Keith drove me to Baja Burrito for lunch. I could not stop reading this book.

What happened to Nick and Amy Dunne's marriage? Where is Amy? And is Nick responsible for the large amount of her blood spilled on their kitchen floor on the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary? Whether or not he's guilty, he acts strangely. He's narcissistic and defensive when he should be concerned about his wife. Meanwhile, Amy's diary reveals a perfect relationship slowly gone wrong, but it seems... well... weird. It reveals a woman who is brilliant and engaging, but also grating and high-strung. Did living with Amy eventually drive Nick crazy?

Nick's side of the story shows that he and Amy have been at each other's throats since they lost their jobs and moved from New York City to rural Missouri to care for Nick's ailing mother. But Amy's diary shows that they were crazy about each other just five years ago, and the sexy anniversary scavenger hunt Amy made for Nick is conciliatory. Someone isn't telling the truth. Actually, no one is telling the whole truth! But what is true, and what isn't?

Gillian Flynn is appearing at the Southern Festival of Books next month, and I'm so excited. I hope she discusses character creation, because I think she's a master. Nick and Amy are flawed, secretive, and self-absorbed, but also uncomfortably familiar. Relating with them will make you sqiurm. And if a book can make me squirm, I consider it very, very well written.

Don't read any more unless you've read the book! 

I'm so curious about this: Did you know that Amy's diary was fake? And if so, what tipped you off? The April 21, 2009 entry mocking the "dancing monkeys" who do nice, normal things to please the women in their lives rang false to me, and I began to suspect that the diary was fake, or Amy was mentally ill, or both.

In this entry, Amy soaked up her friends' sympathy when Nick stood her up for drinks. And then she went home and jumped into his arms, as if nothing was wrong. No sane woman would ever, ever do that! If your boyfriend or husband stands you up and doesn't even text you to say "I'm sorry, but I can't join you tonight," then something is wrong. Either he's terribly rude and inconsiderate, or something has happened to prevent him from getting in touch.

As I read, I guessed that Amy hadn't invited Nick to join her and her friends, but she pretended he'd been invited to get their sympathy and attention. Perhaps she had histrionic personality disorder and did strange things to get attention? But this diary entry was so weird that I read it again, and I realized that the tone was that of a persuasive essay, not that of a diary. I don't know about you, but in a personal diary, I wouldn't fill in supporting background details. It wouldn't be necessary, because I already know what I said, did, or thought.

But a persuasive essay depends on supporting details to make a point. So when Amy says, "Nick and I, we sometimes laugh, laugh out loud, at the horrible things women make their husbands do to prove their love. The pointless tasks, the myriad sacrifices, the endless small surrenders. We call these men the dancing monkeys," I became suspicious. The "horrible" things she described, like introducing your boyfriend to your friends or asking him to help with chores around the house, sounded reasonable to me.

More importantly, this supporting background information is out of place in a diary, but it's perfect for a persuasive essay. Amy was trying to persuade the reader that she was less demanding than other women--but why? Who did she think was going to read it? And if her diary was really a persuasive essay, was it also a work of fiction? At this point, I decided Amy was a crazypants histrionic narcissist who had orchestrated her own disappearance for attention.

And yet the book continued to surprise me. Gillian Flynn, you are a genius.


  1. I don't normally go to the last chapter or page and try to read ahead b/c I don't want to ruin the story, but on this one I totally went to the last chapter about halfway through - I had to see what happened! Of course, then I got even more confused, so I stopped doing that.

    There were a lot of moments of me making faces of being uncomfortable while I read this book. Also, lots of talking to the book like it was a horror movie "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?? STOP DOING THAT, IT'S MAKING YOU LOOK WORSE!"

    1. Haha, I know! I kept wanting to yell at Nick: "Stop smiling at the press conference! You look like a jerk!" and "Don't pose for cutesy cell phone pictures with a strange woman! Your wife just disappeared, you doofus!"

      What did you think of the Cool Girl diatribe? I thought it was absolutely true. I remember feeling pressured to act like that in college when I dated a guy who was addicted to gaming. Thinking, "Just smile and act like it's cool that he spent so much money on video games that he can't buy an anniversary present. It's not cool to nag." Gillian Flynn hit a nerve there!

  2. Clearly Gone Girl is clever and devious. It has you thinking you know what is going on, then changes everything. It even makes you speculate what will happen in the future for the characters!


What do you think? Your comments always make my day.

P.S. All trolls will be fed to the bookworms.