Gone Girl: A Novel by Gillian Flynn (New York: Crown Publishers, 2012. 432 pp)
Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Gillian Flynn earned undergraduate degrees in English and journalism at the University of Kansas and a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University. Flynn wrote for Entertainment Weekly for 10 years—4 of which were as the TV critic. Her first book, Sharp Objects, won two of Britain’s Dagger Awards. Gone Girl has been adapted into a feature film.
Sometimes there’s nothing better than a page-turner. I usually shy away from page-turners as for better or worse, I tend to label them guilty pleasures—they aren’t deep, literary fiction.
But not all page-turners and New York Times bestsellers are created equal. When it comes to Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn capably balances the pop-accessibility of mystery with deeper themes circling a broken relationship.
Gone Girl sits in the precipice of truth, overlooking the abyss of lies and misdirection. The important aspect of the plot centers on a woman missing. This woman, Amy, takes pride in her upper-class upbringing. A Manhattanite to her core, she’s felt isolated in the last couple of years after moving to the Midwest with her husband Nick to help him take care of his ailing parents.
Their marriage has encountered better times. With early butterflies fading, the walls that have buttressed their marriage are crumbling.
So naturally, when a wife goes missing and apparent remains of a struggle scatter around in the living room, suspicion, as it often does, falls first on the husband.
Nick, while maintaining his innocence, is pretty shady. And Flynn quickly points out he’s not the most truthful person either.
“It was my fifth lie to the police. I was just starting” (37).
With this very line, Flynn introduces a riveting story about a mystery surrounding the disappearance of a woman, and the did-he-do-it mentality of pop culture?
Nick’s innate desire to be liked draws further suspicion on his circumstances, as he doesn’t react like the public thinks a husband should react in such a scenario. His need for privacy on certain matters casts shade over his alibi to the point where his sister, Go, and his parents-in-law begin to doubt.
The reader rides the roller coaster of a who-dun-it as Flynn utilizes sleight of hand to keep the suspense going.
While Gone Girl functions well as a pop thriller in the mystery genre, she holds some literary weight. Her analysis of a failing marriage emerges spotlessly and the characters she builds are well-defined.
A Peek at Both Sides
The readers gets a peek into marital discord from both sides.
To Nick, she pens:
“The Amy of today was abrasive enough to want to hurt, sometimes. I speak specifically of the Amy of today, who was only remotely like the woman I fell in love with. It had been an awful fairy-tale reverse transformation” (49).
For Amy she states,
“I think, immediately, that there is something wrong with us, perhaps unfixable, if my husband wouldn’t think to tell me this. Sometimes I feel it’s his personal game, that he’s in some sort of undeclared contest for impenetrability” (99).
Unpacking this relationship becomes the key to unlocking the mystery.
And that reason defines what makes Gone Girl tick. Even though it’s a genre-page-turner, the depth of it makes you think and gives the book a generous amount of enjoyment. Well recommended.
Verdict: 4.5 out of 5