Second Guessing: Gone Girl

Yesterday, on Facebook, I was asked by one of TBYL’s friend whether or not I’d read and/or review Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl (Hachette). As it happens, I read it a couple of months ago but haven’t reviewed it. As luck would have it, a spot has opened up on the review schedule today, and so I thought I’d post my thoughts on this fascinating book. Carrie, this one’s for you…


I’ll say it again – one of the best things about being part of a book club is being encouraged to read books that you’d otherwise not read. I’d heard of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, but had overlooked it. I hadn’t paid much attention to it, despite the rave reviews and awards. Little did I know that I was missing out on a crazy, head-spinning, second-guessing read.

Gone GirlJust how well can you ever know the person you love? This is the question that Nick Dunne must ask himself on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary when his wife Amy suddenly disappears. The police immediately suspect Nick. Amy’s friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him. He swears it isn’t true. A police examination of his computer shows strange searches. He says they aren’t his. And then there are the persistent calls on his mobile phone. So what really did happen to Nick’s beautiful wife? And what was in that half-wrapped box left so casually on their marital bed? In this novel, marriage truly is the art of war.

Ominous in many measures, Gone Girl starts, page one, paragraph one by raising your suspicions…

“When I think of my wife, I always think of her head. The shape of it, to begin with. The very first time I saw her, it was the back of the head I saw, and there was something lovely about it, the angle of it. Like a shiny, hard corn kernel or a riverbed fossil. She had what the Victorians would call a finely shaped head. You could imagine the skill quite easily.

I’d know her head anywhere.

And what’s inside it. I think of that, too: her mind. Her brain, all those coils, and her thoughts shuttling through those coils like fast , frantic centipedes. Like a child, I picture opening her skull, unspooling her brain and sifting through it, trying to catch and pin down her thoughts. 

What are you thinking, Amy?’ The question I’ve asked most often during our marriage, if not out loud, if not to the person who could answer. I suppose these questions stormcloud over every marriage: ‘What are you thinking? How are you feeling? Who are you? What have we done to each other? What will we do?'”

The suspense grows, chapter by chapter, as the reader is provided with details – details of a missing wife, a nervous husband, a wife’s memories held safely in her diary, discovered at just the right time.

But, as you might expect, things are rarely as they seem. Nick gives us plenty of reasons to distrust him, and it’s easy to assume his lies are akin to an admission of guilt. Still, it is impossible to ignore the fact that Nick’s search for Amy appears genuine, as does his curious fear of her. And then, of course, there are the clues…

The only thing that’s certain is that we’re not being told the whole truth – by anyone.

Flynn has put together one of the most compelling thrillers that I’ve read. It reminds me of other novels that I’ve enjoyed, Before I Go to Sleep and Dark Horse, for instance, but I think it’s even cleverer than these titles. There’s nothing particularly exceptional about the writing as such, but the voices of the characters are written flawlessly, and the feeling of manipulation, claustrophobia and psychosis is consuming.

But what of the ending? When I mentioned that I was reading Gone Girl most people warned me off the conclusion of this story, and have since asked me what I thought of it. Do you know what? I liked it. I know, lots of people didn’t, but personally, I don’t think I would have liked it to end any other way.

Of course, I can’t say much more of what happens than that, that’d ruin the fun, but what I can say is that Gone Girl will have you sitting on the edge of your seat until the very last word…

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