WARNING: This review contains major spoilers.
Yes, Gone Girl was released more than seven years ago, and the movie is now five years old, but I didn’t pick up the book until this month. Miraculously, I also managed to avoid any spoilers, despite all the hype in the past half decade.
So here we are.
I have to say, this is not the review I expected to write. When I checked out the ebook three weeks ago, I felt as if doing so was part of my writerly duty. I love mystery/suspense/thrillers, so it’s kind of amazing I went so long without reading it.
Plus, Ben Affleck is somewhat of a guilty pleasure of mine, and I figured I had to read the book before watching the movie.
In any case, when I first began reading, I was less than impressed. In fact, after 27 pages, I hated it. I had no interest in or allegiance to Nick and Amy as characters, I thought Flynn’s writing was either sloppy or lazy, and I was angry that the world seemed to love this story so much.
You may wonder, as I did, what in the world kept me going. As an adult, I’ve become more comfortable with not finishing books that don’t keep my interest beyond the first five pages, so why did I bother with this one? I’ve come to terms with the fact that there are just so many books I want to read, I shouldn’t feel the need to waste my time. However, as I am also being much more intentional about my authorial career, I find it necessary to determine what sells, and to take that into account when I write.
It’s just good business, right?
So I kept reading, and here’s what I found: Gone Girl is genius — and really f***ing creepy, in the best way.
What impresses me most about this book is its crazy but clear logic — the skill with which Flynn is able to orchestrate this insane narrative, and the meticulous planning she must have done to make this story work. Although I already knew it was one of those husband-gets-blamed-for-wife’s-murder stories, and I suspected Amy was the perpetrator of her own disappearance (I’d already seen A Simple Favor, which, unfortunately, is basically a Gone Girl ripoff), Flynn still managed to surprise me. She kept me wondering, “Who did what and why,” and isn’t that the one great goal of mystery/suspense writers?
So let’s go through some of the plot.
Nick comes home to find his wife missing and the house roughed up. Then we find out he has a disposable cell, and we think it might be linked to Amy’s disappearance, and soon we believe it’s more likely linked to an affair, as Nick’s innocence in the alleged crime becomes apparent. But then Amy’s diary entries start to implicate him, and the doubt creeps in: Is Nick truly innocent? The evidence really is piling up. Then, just when it’s about to turn your thoughts back to, “oh yeah, he definitely did it, she’s dead,” you get this strange sense that the diary doesn’t really sound like Amy, or it does, but a very different one than we’ve known her to be. You think, how could Nick be so wrong about his wife, how could he speak so poorly of her when she’s trying so hard?
He couldn’t. She’s a bald-faced liar, and a disturbingly good one at that.
So, if you’re like me, you really come to hate Amy. Yes, Nick cheated, and that’s horrible. But Amy, as we come to find, is, in Nick’s words, a total psycho bitch. Still, we have to understand How She Did It, because the case against Nick is so watertight, the lie so unfathomable, so utterly brilliant.
And we’re only halfway through the book!
The fact that Flynn is able to sustain such a story is yet another one of her amazing feats. I was more or less mesmerized by Nick’s path to proving his own innocence, and fascinated by the way he and Amy were able to play each other — back into each other’s arms.
At this point, if you haven’t read the book (shame on you for reading this far), you might think, Hold up. WHAT?
Yeah, as Amy started to work her way back to Nick, and Nick started to justify loving her again, I was skeptical. But yet again, Flynn convinces us that their thoughts, their logic, their choices are not only possible, but believable. Even without agreeing, you can understand their individual psychoses and how two people can fall so far from where they started, and be so separate from the image they present to the world.
Of course, with the baby at the end, the — let’s just say it — disgusting and underhanded way she gets herself pregnant by Nick, Amy is easy to hate. She is psycho supreme, for sure. I did feel a little bit bad, when she got robbed in the Ozarks, but at the end, she’s not human. Her existence is truly amazing — as unbelievable as it seems, you can see how she came to be, and that’s terrifying.
But then Nick says he’s sorry for her, and delivers that chilling line, “Every morning, you have to wake up and be you.”
Sure, he’s still chained to Amy, and she has the literal last word of the book, but you realize, in that last chapter, that they are both mad and frightening people.
This brings me back to the beginning, and my initial hatred for both characters. Although I still question it, since it very nearly caused me to stop reading, their lack of identifiability (not a word, I know) seems purposeful, in that it keeps you from taking a side. If you haven’t chosen a side, it’s easier to “hear” both people out, and continue to be interested/engaged in the whole story.
All this to say, I applaud Gillian Flynn in her efforts with this book, and would highly recommend Gone Girl to any and all mystery/suspense/thriller fans.
What did you think of the book? The movie?