"Gone Girl": Gillian Flynn Dissects the Imperfect Marriage
Written: Jun 26, 2012 (Updated Jun 28, 2012)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:plot, characters, plot, plot twists, attention to detail
Cons:a slight letdown with the conclusion...
The Bottom Line: Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl is the author's third five-star effort in a row. Pretty darned good considering that it's only her third book!
The same scenario hits the tabloids every couple of years. You know the one: you’ve seen it, if only because the images seem somehow unavoidable with those faces plastered everywhere. Sure, you remember: a photogenic young blonde wife (preferably pregnant) gone missing… a hapless husband, eyes bruised-looking from exhaustion, reading a statement begging for her return under the hot glare of the klieg lights… professionally-outraged talking heads on cable TV dialing up the accusations and the high dudgeon… legions of bonbon-gobbling house -wives (and –husbands) instantly experts in their own minds on blood spatter, rip tides, and undetectable poisons. Sure, you know the scenario: there’s a Gone Girl out there.
Nick Dunne never imagined that one day he’d be that hapless, baggy-eyed husband. Sure, he realized his five-year marriage to Amy Elliott was going through a “rough patch”; of course he knew that the strain of losing both their jobs and relocating from Manhattan to Missouri – Missouri, dammit! – had made things worse. But when he awoke on the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary to Amy’s humming in the kitchen while she made celebratory crepes, he allowed himself to wonder if maybe it could all work out.
Six hours later, Amy was gone: disappeared off the face of the Earth, the door to their rented McMansion on the bank of the Mississippi standing wide open; furniture overturned in the living room and their cat blinking in the unaccustomed sunlight of the doorstep. The police were solicitous at the start, but everyone “knows” that the husband is always the main suspect. That first television appearance, the one with the pleading statement, though? He blew it with his dazzling and completely inappropriate smile. Things kept going downhill from there, shoved along by Nick’s stubborn inability to account for his whereabouts during the morning of his wife’s disappearance.
The missing woman was Amy Elliott Dunne, (once-) rich Manhattanite who had been the inspiration for the dozens of “Amazing Amy” books written by her parents and devoured by two generations of pre-teen girls. She was as blonde and telegenic as any victim could be in a nation obsessed with telegenic blonde victims. Her disappearance was as made-for-TV as any Lifetime movie of the week ever was...
Things kept getting worse for Nick: there was the wispy red thong the cops found in the office where he met students as an associate lecturer at a nearby community college. And the pool of blood that had been (poorly) cleaned up on his kitchen floor. And the recent major bump in Amy’s life insurance policy. And the hundreds of thousands of dollars charged to credit cards he swore he’d never opened. And Amy’s best friend, of whom he was completely unaware. So when the police finally found Amy’s diary to fill in the missing bits, well, it was all over but the shouting. Lance Nicholas Dunne, 38, of Carthage, MO, was tried and convicted by a national television audience long before he ever saw a pair of handcuffs.
Except for one small thing: Nick knew he hadn’t killed his wife: but he was pretty sure what had happened…
For her third novel (following Sharp Objects and Dark Places), Missouri-born Gillian Flynn to some extent tracks her own life: she's a print journalist who's fallen victim to the twin scourges of internet “journalism” and the great depression of 2008, just as her protagonist, Nick. The resemblance, one certainly hopes, ends there…
With an eye cocked at the nearest tabloid “news” show and a tongue planted firmly in cheek, Flynn spools out a plot that could have easily been ripped from last week’s (or last month’s or year’s) headlines. For her narrative, she alternates chapters in the voice of Nick (the present) and Amy’s diary entries (the past) covering the six years since the night they met. With every passing page, no matter who is talking, Nick looks guiltier and guiltier. He looks guiltier even as Flynn skillfully drops a cast of plausible alternatives into the plot. Did Nick’s twin sister Go (short for Margo) off the sister-in-law she’d never liked? Did his Alzheimers-infused father wander into the house and kill a supposed stranger? Was it an ex-boyfriend? Maybe even Amy’s parents? Someone else?
Or maybe it was Nick: after all, he’s never come clean on where he was that morning. By the final page of Part 1: Boy Loses Girl, just about any reader will be ready to send Nick Dunne to death row.
…and then you turn the page; and your first reaction is, “Wow: I never saw that coming!”
Gillian Flynn’s strongest characters have always been women, and Amy Elliott Dunne – gone or present – is no exception to that trend. Her predecessors just might give you some hints about the Amazing Amy, however: Camille Preaker (Sharp Objects) is a cutter who likes rough, anonymous sex; Libby Day (Dark Places) is a bitter kleptomaniac who still lives off the celebrity of her entire family’s decades-old murder. Yet Amy seems so perfect: what might her dark secret be? Trust Gillian Flynn to take you on an exploration of one woman’s exceedingly complex psyche – trust her because you will love every step of the way for the power of Flynn’s plotting and the skill of her characterizations. You will learn to love Amy Elliott Dunne and hate Nick Dunne…and that is the ultimate testament to Gillian Flynn’s work. Most assuredly five stars!
I can’t leave this review without remarking on what a pleasure it has been to read the work of a real, live professional wordsmith (Flynn was, at one time, the television reviewer for “Entertainment Weekly”). After a steady diet of books that have been haphazardly edited (if at all) or simply sold through some publish-on-demand site that pumps out literary sausage, Flynn’s talent and obvious love of the language are oxygen to this brain. I simply can’t tell you what a pleasure it is to read work by an author who does not think one “hones in on” a solution; who can write of children playing without saying that they “careen about the street”; and who knows what “namesake” really means. That attention to detail makes Gone Girl worth a sixth star to me!
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