Published by Broadway Books
Publication date: April 22nd 2014
Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl is a New York Times Bestseller. It is out in paperback now and has already been optioned for the screen by 20th Century Fox with a film adaptation to be produced by Reese Witherspoon. It was last summer’s bestseller and somehow, with everything I was reading, I missed it. Since that moment I’ve been on library holding lists waiting for it. It arrived last Thurs and I stayed up until I finished it Friday night. OK, it’s good. Really good and if you want to stop reading and head out and buy it you probably should, but there is more to it than that.
The novel is about Nick Dunne and his wife, Amy. They are a bright, accomplished couple who, like so many, lost their writing jobs in the economic decline of 2008. As Nick says
Blame the economy, blame bad luck, blame my parents, blame your parents, blame the internet, blame people who use the Internet. I used to be a writer. I was a writer who wrote about TV and movies and books. Back when people read things on paper, back when anyone cared about what I thought.
Amy is the daughter of two authors whose careers have consisted of writing children’s book series called Amazing Amy, largely about her. Wildly popular and profitable they’ve given her a comfortable life where work is a choice and a brownstone in Brooklyn is a wedding present. Whatever else it has deposited in her psyche remains to be seen but at one point she hints
So many lessons and opportunities and advantages, and they never taught me how to be happy. I remember always being baffled by other children. I would be at a birthday party and watch the other kids giggling and making faces, and I would try to do that too, but I wouldn’t understand why.
Money they thought they had is gone and Nick’s parents, back in his hometown in Missouri are seriously ill. With nothing but an expensive lifestyle keeping them in New York City, Nick decides they should start fresh in Missouri, which will also allow him to care for his dying mother. Several years later, Nick is teaching part-time at a community college and has opened a bar with his sister. A bar funded by what remains of Amy’s trust fund. Amy continues to struggle with the transition from NYC to small town life. The book opens on the day of their fifth anniversary and before the day is over the reader is plunged into a Nancy Grace world of true crime. Amy disappears and in the days that follow it becomes clear that nice-guy Nick is the prime suspect.
I didn’t say this out loud, though; I often don’t say things out loud, even when I should. I contain and compartmentalize to an alarming degree: In my belly-basement are hundreds of bottles of rage, despair, fear, but you’d never guess from looking at me.
What transpires in Gone Girl is a game of marital one-upmanship with lives in the balance. Initially, each chapter is either Amy’s diary, dating back to when she first met Nick (a span of almost seven years), or Nick’s voice in present time. In later chapters, both Nick and Amy are present day. The two sides of the truth are constantly being presented but the effect is haunted house mirror combined with Tilt-a-Whirl, guaranteed to leave the reader disoriented and uncertain as to reality. This strategy could backfire and turn the book into a silly farce yet it does not because some of what each character is thinking about the other is valid and true-to-life. There is a reality.
Gone Girl is an extraordinarily well written psychological drama but it is intense. As the plot races so does the reader’s heart and mind. The fact that it is told sharply and honestly from two perspectives means that, up to a point, it’s hard to draw favorites. As the book progresses it plunges more and more deeply into the psyche of modern marriage and it’s not pretty. In fact it’s horrifying but like many things that are, you can’t look away. There is also the element of psychological truth in both Nick’s and Amy’s minds, making the reader feel even more squeamish. Much like the 1980s movie War of the Roses these two highly intelligent people are not going to leave off or back down until one wins. For some, this will be a very depressing look at marriage, especially the final resolution, but if approached from the perspective of fiction and the writing itself, it is brilliant and wicked and, at some points, wildly humorous. It is the perfect antidote to daily life, will rev up your mind to a dizzying degree, and perhaps make you look at your spouse more appreciatively. Either that or avoid the institution of marriage all together.