What I’ve Read: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
This book was a total dark horse read for me. I’ve been on a streak of reading good books that I enjoy, but don’t quite make it to the “can’t put it down” category. I don’t know what I was expecting from it, but I definitely wasn’t prepared for the complete psychological mind-bender that it turned out to be. I had purposely avoided reading plot summaries and other reviews before starting it and after reading Selena’s recommendation, I finally pulled the trigger and downloaded it.
I hate writing synopses, but here’s a snippet of the publisher’s description:
One of the most critically acclaimed suspense writers of our time, New York Times bestseller Gillian Flynn takes that statement to its darkest place in this unputdownable masterpiece about a marriage gone terribly, terribly wrong. […] 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?
Usually my eyes glaze over when I read these publicity-oriented little summaries, but in this case, it’s pretty spot on. One of the things I most admire about a writer is the ability for him or her to change the reader’s loyalties to characters by the revealing of new information or plot twists. For that reason alone, I’d give Gone Girl high marks—I found myself sympathizing with, then hating, then being afraid of various characters at every turn of the page (or so it felt). There is something intensely frightening about finding out that people you supposed were ordinary are actually anything but.
This book preys on a lot of weird psychological twinges that seem to be fairly common. Most obviously, this book brings up the “how well do you really know your spouse?” argument over and over and over. Do you ever look at your spouse, partner, boyfriend, what-have-you and think how weird it is that this is a completely separate entity from you that you have decided to trust implicitly? Do you ever think how strange it is that shared experiences are the only thing that separates your partner from someone you pass in the street?
This book pounces on those questions and takes it a step (or several steps) further. Gone Girl is really a psychological drama disguised as a murder/suspense novel and it doesn’t give you any breathing room. The plot is so intense and the plot twists so unrelenting that I had to often stop reading and give myself a short break to digest what I’d just read and realign my assumptions about the characters.
Unfortunately, like with many good books (especially suspense/mystery novels), Flynn created a genius plot and then seemed to lack the vision of how to pull it all together at the end. While it’s sometimes true that no ending can be perfectly satisfying to a reader, this one seems particularly forced—to the point of being overly abrupt. One could argue that she did this purposefully, but the usual “tricks” signalling the reason for an abrupt ending (a vague conclusion, the hint of some bigger turmoil to come, etc.) didn’t materialize for me. After the breathless, frantic pace of the rest of the book, the last few pages left a bittersweet taste in my mouth.
I’d hate to let that paragraph above be the final word for this review, so let me just say that you should absolutely read this. Maybe today. I haven’t read a book like this in a long time…or ever. There are moments of complete brilliance—plot twists so smart and unexpected that you might gasp out loud. Some books don’t deserve the hype surrounding them, especially during the summer publishing season. This one does. (But I’m still not sold on the ending.)
Have you read this book? What did you think?