Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn

Published: August 2014
Publisher: Phoenix Fiction
Pages: 461


On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne's fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick's clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn't doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife's head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media--as well as Amy's fiercely doting parents--the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he's definitely bitter--but is he really a killer? 
As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn't do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?


I had heard mixed things about Gone Girl before I read it, but I suspected that it may have been one of those culturally pivotal books, so I thought I’d give it a go. It isn't, but it’s still good. I’m usually not a big fan of thrillers, they put my on edge, and if I was to read any they would be of the Agatha Christie, Dan Brown variety, so this book is not the type I would usually read and it pleasantly surprised me. And by pleasantly, I mean horrified, but in a good way.

Amy and Nick are quite unusual characters in that that they are both absolutely awful. The narrative is told from the dual perspective of the couple, and spending time in the minds of two people who can only be described as sick, was disorientating and uncomfortable. In any other book Nick would have been the worst character in it, but for some reason, beside Amy, he doesn’t seem too bad. Both of their voices were distinct, and you could always tell who you were reading. Both Amy and Nick had childhoods that affected the way they behaved in later life. Nick finds grieving for Amy and the way he portrayed his grief extremely difficult, because of his strained relationship with his father . He acts weirdly around the cameras, and his behaviour seems to incriminate him even more. I found it interesting to see how his emotions conflicted with the way he behaved and why. Amy had a very different childhood from Nick. Instead of scraping by , Amy was the privileged and adored only daughter of two loved up psychologists, who write a bestselling children’s book series based on a sickeningly perfect version of their daughter. So Amy spends her childhood overshadowed by this fictional version of herself, created by her own parents, which messes her up quite a bit.

The first half of the book contains extracts from Amy’s diary, so we see through her eyes what happened before her disappearance, how her and Nick met and how they ended up in Missouri. These are interspersed between Nick coping with the fallout of her disappearance, and the contrast provided was really interesting.

This is a fantastic thriller. There are twists and turns, it’s suspenseful and has a cracker of an ending. Flynn leaves pieces of the solution hidden around the narrative, and I think they all fit together by the end. I certainly didn’t notice any plot holes, but if you’ve found any feel free to let me know. If you’re looking for a captivating thriller, do check this one out. The writing was excellent, and perfectly captured the c=story, the characters and the atmosphere. Flynn did an excellent job inhabiting the minds if two outrageous characters.

SLIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD I hear that there has been a lot of controversy about whether or not this is a feminist novel, and I just can’t make up my mind. On one hand, there are some fantastic 3D female characters such as Margo, Nick’s sister, and Boney, the police detective investigating Amy’s case and I’m not completely sure about this, but I think this book passes the Bechdel test. On the other hand, the book deals with the controversial theory of the “Cool Girl”. Through Amy, Flynn insists that the cool girl doesn’t exist, that she is a figment of the male imagination, brought to life by women who believe this is how they are expected to behave. It sounds ridiculous, and while I don’t agree with her completely, the more she reasoned it, the more I started to agree a bit. I don’t think that the cool girl doesn’t exist, I don’t know any but I’m sure there are some out there, and I don’t think this is what all men are looking for in a girlfriend. But I do agree that there is some societal pressure on women to act this way. The point is that because of this phenomenon, the roles could not have been reversed. Amy could never have been suspected of killing her husband the same way Nick is. Because of the way society views domestic relationships, and the way the media treats these cases, the roles could never be reversed and get the same story. And because of the “Cool Girl” theory, Amy’s motives are predominantly female, and could not be transferred to a man. That being said, Amy cannot be seen as a representative for all women, she’s more like a representative for sociopaths. I think people are quite touchy about how women are presented in culture these days, and they feel that Amy is giving men ( and women) yet more kindling for the “Crazy Bitch” fire, but I feel that she is a complex and interesting character, who is also female, which is what I wanted all along.

With regards to the film, Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike did an excellent job portraying the hot-yet-creepy husband, and the beautifu,l mysterious wife. The film captures the atmosphere of the book perfectly, and there were some parts that were definitely enhanced by being on film. There were some slight differences, probably taken out to shorten the running time of the film, but everything ran smoothly regardless. They way the use Amy’s diary is quite clever, and it held my attention even though it ran the risk of being boring.

This is a fantastic thriller, with something more to think about than just whodunnit. I would recommend this to anyone who already enjoys the thriller genre, and to anyone who hasn’t much experience with the genre, but wants to try it out.

Four Stars ****

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