Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn 2012)

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Gone Girl is a novel which has received a lot of good press lately, more so after the release of its film adaptation, which I have yet to watch. Yet, when I originally picked this book up a few years ago I had no idea that I was picking up a bestseller. It was just an ordinary book to me. As a result I went into it without any set opinions and have formed a reasonably objective opinion. The book revolves around two characters, Nick Dunne and his wife Amy. Nick Dunne wakes up on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary to find his wife missing. He is subsequently roped into a police investigation, with himself as the primary suspect and he soon learns that Amy claimed to be scared about him. He swears he is innocent. Yet Amy’s personal diary entries seem to contradict this theory. The question is raised as to who is telling the truth and who is lying, and more importantly what really happened to Amy?

The novel is primarily told through Nick’s point of view, set in the present day, and through Amy’s diary entries, which go back to the time running up to her disappearance. The two entries seem to contradict information shown in each one and the reliability of both narrators is called into question. One is constantly asking the question, how much of what they are saying is the truth and how much of it is lies? As the story develops both characters are shown to be archetypal unreliable narrators with something to hide. Nick is shown to be anything but the perfect husband he claims to be, having an affair with another woman, and Amy is revealed to be petty and obsessed with being perfect.

The novel is one of those filled with twists but the biggest is the reveal of the culprit behind Amy’s disappearance, namely herself. In her biggest unreliable narrator moment, the entire diary is revealed to be fake and designed with the intent of implicating Nick in a for her “murder” for the sake of revenge against him cheating on her. In reality Amy is still alive. As Nick begins to discover this, he realises she has done this to a number of people who had previously wronged her. The reveal of Amy’s true nature was probably the biggest reveal of the entire novel and it changed the tone of the story from murder mystery to thriller. The twist provided a lot material for those reading a second time, and upon rereading I noticed a lot of foreshadowing which flew over my head the first time.

The ending was suitably twisted and satisfying, as it gives both characters their much needed desserts. Amy’s plan unravels as she begins to run out of money following a robbery and stays with a former boyfriend. Yet she soon realises that her only option is to return to Nick, something helped by a TV interview in which he begs for her to return home. She murders the boyfriend and goes on to claim that he kidnapped her. When she returns to Nick, they have no choice but to stay together thanks to the media attention surrounding her “kidnapping” and are forced to stay together in a loveless marriage, in part because of the lack of better options. For Amy she is stuck having to pretend to love a man who lied and cheated on her, while Nick is stuck knowing full well that she framed him but cannot do anything to prove it. Thus in some respects they both get the retribution they deserve, ironically enough by being forced to stay with each other. This was a brilliant twist, as it gives the story a twisted sense of closure without seeing either character “win” the battle in the end.

Overall the novel was very twisty and a true thriller. At the same time I found it thoroughly enjoyable, more so than I was actually expecting. The twist was genuinely surprising, though a bit inevitable in hindsight. It plays on a lot of common found fears and insecurities in order to get you to root for both characters. Though I empathised with Nick more since he was mostly a victim, I felt enough for Amy that I was able to acknowledge that both needed equal amounts of karma at the end. Probably the best thriller I’ve read in a long while and one I will read again and again.

SCORE: 4.5/5

IN A WORD: TWISTY

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