By Gillian Flynn
This novel has been touted as “one of the best books of the summer” by Amazon.com and was recently called a “publishing phenomenon” by “The Huffington Post”. This is the third novel for Ms. Flynn. Her first, Sharp Objects was nominated for and Edgar Award for best first novel in 2007. I read that one and liked it for its unique main character: a troubled teenager who suffered self-inflicted lacerations in response to stress and depression. I decided to read Gone Girl, anticipating from all of the hype that this would be the book that placed this author into the category of a “must-read” author.
Unfortunately, for many reasons, this book just didn’t resonate with me. The plot is interesting enough, but there are so many improbabilities and ridiculous twists that it quickly becomes pretty unbelievable. The basic story is that Amy Dunne disappears from her home on her fifth wedding anniversary. Her husband Nick returns home mid-day and finds the living room in disarray indicating signs of a struggle. The police are called and an investigation begins. Nick, of course, becomes suspect #1 (the husband always is). Nick professes his innocence but inconsistencies in his story and further forensic evidence places him under increasing suspicion. The story is told in the first person by Nick and Amy in alternating chapters. Nick tells the story from the disappearance onward and Amy’s chapters are in the form of diary entries relating her flawed marriage. I’ve never been a fan of flashbacks as a vehicle for back story, especially when it is presented in diary format. There are other contemporaneous Amy chapters which show a completely different person from the sweet, beautiful, rapturously in-love Amy of the diary entries. (Plot spoiler: Amy isn’t dead, but the reader figures that out pretty fast.)
It’s really hard to like any of the characters in this book. The two main characters are egotistical, manipulating and not trustworthy. The minor characters are almost cartoonishly stereotypical, including the Barney Fife local police, Nick’s twin sister named Go who helps Nick run a bar (think of Marisa Tomei in “My Cousin Vinny” and you know this character), Amy’s parents who are both child psychologists and made a fortune writing children’s books about a perfect child named (are you ready?) “Amazing Amy” and a Nancy Grace clone who represents all that is bad in tabloid media.
My other problem with this book is the gratuitous use of profanity which just isn’t necessary to tell the story. I guess the author is trying to accurately display Nick’s frustration levels, but I think that could be conveyed without every other word being an “F-Bomb”. I also dislike the author constantly telling us what the characters are thinking, rather than showing us through narrative. This happens a lot in the diary sections but is also prevalent throughout the entire novel. The resolution of the story is so unrealistic that it is laughable.
If Gone Girl is indeed “one of the best books of the summer” then what a sad summer it is. After reading this I decided to revisit some classics. I’m now working through some Ray Bradbury and what a welcome change of pace that has been. Read Gone Girl if you’re curious, but don’t blame me if you wish you hadn’t.