A match made in hell. Happily.
Publisher: Phoenix (Orion Books)
First Published: 24th May 2012
Date Reviewed: 22nd January 2014
Amy is missing. Nick was out at the beach having a coffee and when he received the call he drove straight back. The door was open; the living room showed signs of a struggle and mopped up blood; his wife was nowhere to be seen. Nick doesn’t really like his wife. And his wife doesn’t like him. They’re no longer getting on and Nick is the prime suspect. Because it makes sense, doesn’t it? The husband killed his wife; it happens in all the TV shows.
Gone Girl is a twisted, unreliable, yet undeniably magnificent thriller. Told from Nick and Amy’s perspectives – or is it? – the book keeps you on your toes for the entire ride.
The characters give Heathcliff a run for his money in the anti-hero stakes, both taking turns, in the way it is written if not in reality, of making you feel a (little, only ever a little) sympathy for them before you scorn them instead. It’s all rather akin to the way the public and media are swept along in the book. Flynn never once lets you find your feet. Is she going to have her characters present the truth? No; oh, perhaps in a moment? Nick and Amy are as unreliable as the British weather – far more ferocious than the wind, as quick and shocking as lightening but always ready to show a sunny smile. The book may have an ending, but even then you will leave not knowing whether somewhere buried in what you know – the various ‘truths’ – is the real (really, really, real) truth or not.
Needless to say the characters are shocking. These characters weren’t written to be liked or related to. Perhaps one of the characters is more shocking in particular – it’s hard to really say if one is worse than the other due to the unreliability – but either way they stoop to low depths. Calculating, manipulative, and that word again, twisted. It’s one of those ironic situations where you can see that two characters are absolutely made for each other but you can’t say you care.
Flynn’s writing is exceptional. It’s not literary (literary would have ruined this one) – it’s the dialogue, the characterisation, the overall feel. Even the excessive swearing has its place. Flynn’s writing style as a whole is simply different. She brings the characters to life in a way that is rarely seen. The first-person narrative makes it even more damning and sly.
There are many turns in this book as well as the literal switching back and forth in mind set. There are purposes the characters don’t let you in on until later on, too. This point is worth mentioning because a fair way through the book the narrative seems to change – it seems Flynn isn’t going to give the reader what they want, but she’s better than you’ll assume. And no matter whether you like the ending not, it is difficult to say it doesn’t fit the book. Various endings are possible here, some that would provide instant gratification for the readers, some the instant gratification for the characters, others that appear to weaken the characters or to push the book to end quickly, those with loose threads, and those that would be most satisfying a while after you’ve finished. Like the characters, Flynn’s authorship is unreliable – purposefully – and she isn’t going to budge. If you want to know the details you’ll have to stay put and keep reading.
With it’s numerous twists and turns, the diversions to places that suggest a loss of the iron grip Flynn has, the book can seem long at times. Yet except for those moments when you wonder if Flynn will keep her end of the bargain, it’s never disappointing. It doesn’t feel as lengthy as it is, and when you look at the amount of time in which the majority of the story occurs, it’s really no time at all.
The best way to sum Gone Girl up is to say that whether or not it’s exactly what you pictured, this book is one of those few that are unlikely not to meet your expectations in terms of the genre, the hate, and the overall package.
Amy wants you to read this book, and if you’ve been at all intrigued it’s likely she’ll get her way. She always does.
January 24, 2014, 2:37 am
I do love an unreliable narrator and having my narrative expectations challenged, so I should have read this ages ago. It does seem to polarize readers somewhat!
January 24, 2014, 3:20 am
I’ve never had so much fun disliking characters as much as I did in Gone Girl- I loved and dreaded all the twists and turns!
January 24, 2014, 4:08 am
One day I will get to this book… Author… Something will happen. :)
January 24, 2014, 4:11 am
I’m so conflicted on this one! But interesting to read how much you liked it. I may have to read it after all :)
January 24, 2014, 8:04 am
I found the characters far too OTT to be believable and therefore to care about. Odd though that you should mention Heathcliff, as I felt the same way about him!
January 24, 2014, 1:44 pm
This was the basis of one of my bookclub’s best discussion. It shocked many, but I was rooting for crazy Amy.
January 24, 2014, 4:34 pm
I should try this one — sometimes I like a good stressful thriller!
January 24, 2014, 6:21 pm
I feel like people either love this or hate it – and I’m in the love it camp. The characters are crazy and mean, and boy did I say wtf a bunch of times!
January 24, 2014, 9:22 pm
I am increasingly intrigued by this book, but continue to resist because the movie was just filmed in my home town of Cape Girardeau, Missouri and I want to see it before I read the book.
January 25, 2014, 4:06 am
This book threw me for all kinds of loops. What a ride :)
Now, I’m looking forward to seeing the movie.
January 25, 2014, 4:25 am
I liked this, but it unsettled me at the time I read it. It is definitely unforgettable and just so dang clever. I noticed that it is on the NYT bestseller list again at #7 and it will only get more popular as the movie date approaches.
January 26, 2014, 2:11 pm
I disliked this book.
I found it both boring and the twist expected.
But, I think what annoyed me the most was that it was telling me something it wasn’t and nick wasn’t punished in the right sort of ways.
A clever, but unsatisfying book for me.
January 26, 2014, 10:32 pm
I read this after it was way too hyped and I was expecting a lot more in the way of surprises. Even my determination to avoid any and all spoilers wasn’t enough to keep me from hearing a few almost-spoilers, so I kept wondering when the twists would come in.
January 27, 2014, 7:57 pm
I am really looking forward to the movie and seeing how the author changes the ending. I quite enjoyed this book when I read it too.
Like Laurie C, I found though that because of the almost spoilers so many people were giving before I read the book that the twists weren’t that surprising when I got to them.
January 28, 2014, 2:46 am
My love for this book knows no bounds. And I ADORE the ending. So imagine my tantrum when I found out that the director of the movie version completely changed the ending!! Makes me not even want to go see it. Hmph.
February 28, 2014, 4:23 pm
Vicki: It does polarise, but that makes it all the more interesting, especially as I think this is a book that no matter which side of the debate you fall on you can understand the other side.
Kate: Very good point! You hate them, and you’re meant to.
Kailana: Good :)
Christine: It’s worth a try even if you stop part way :)
Maryom: I’d say Amy is bordering on Heathcliff awfulness, even if it’s different, she’s just so twisted.
Alex: ! Interesting that it caused so much discussion, I can imagine shock but discussion, not so much.
Audra: Go for it!
Tanya: It’s Marmite :)
Jeanne: Ahh, in that situation movie before book makes perfect sense :)
Jennifer: Same here. I was pleasantly surprising by the casting.
Anbolyn: I think it’s meant to ;) That’s true. It’s already been popular and it’ll happen again. That said if they change the ending maybe there will be a whole new type of discussion.
Alice: I don’t think either of them got what they deserved. I do agree with you somewhat, and I thought more needed to happen at the end regarding Nick, but that was a personal thought and I guess many wouldn’t agree.
Laurie: I think for me it was different enough to what I expected that the expectations were irrelevant. I suppose it depends on what you’ve read about it beforehand. Ahh, if you read spoilers I can see it being an issue. I think some of it’s predictable, but the whys aren’t so much so they’re important not to know beforehand.
Literary Feline: Ahh, is it Flynn who’s changing it? Suddenly that doesn’t sound so bad. An alternative ending could be very interesting (see my comment to Alice). I think the whole mystery of Amy’s disappearance is predictable enough without spoilers, if that helps :)
Kelly: It’s going to cause divides, that’s for sure. Maybe they’ll include the original ending on the DVD?