Last October I reviewed David Fincher’s movie for GONE GIRL, and we also gave away copies of the book, but none of us had actually read the book. Well low and behold, one of us has now, and Kernel Morgan now presents to you her review for the book that inspired the movie. Gillian Flynn’s book has been described as a winner, a publishing gold mine that was an international best seller and a favourite with the ladies. An intense psychological thriller in the vein of FATAL ATTRACTION. You can get GONE GIRL in all bookstores or you can buy it HERE, if you haven’t read it get into it!! It is published by Hachette Australia and this review was from a book borrowed from the local library. All the best…..JK.
BY MORGAN BELL
GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn is a psychological thriller, told in three parts. It is about the intertwining of hurt and love, sex and violence. Each part unfolds via chapters of alternating point of view between Nick Dunne, a pretty-boy Missouri native, and his wife Amy Dunne, a beautiful Yankee trust fund princess. The couple are in their thirties and floundering to keep any life direction with the deluge of the Global Financial Crisis flushing them out of their privileged New York existence.
About twenty-five pages in Nick receives a phone call alerting him that the door of his house is wide open. He quickly drives home to discover a quiet upturned scene and realises after a quick search that Amy is gone. With alarming entries in Amy’s diary discovered by the detectives, and a string of faux pas with rabid finger-pointing media, Nick soon becomes the prime suspect and scrambles to cover-up, uncover, and recollect details of his relationship. Nick was the kind of guy that just skated through life, never really questioning anything. His ability to step up to the challenge is a life defining moment. Failure could land him a life in prison, and his trial by media does not leave him confident that he could be found anything but guilty.
Amy disappears on the couple’s wedding anniversary. The story arc centres on a treasure hunt of cryptic clues set out by Amy just prior to her disappearance, and the police manhunt and questioning of Nick for alibi and motive. Nick develops a tenuous rapport with the female detective assigned to the case, and launches his own secret investigation withholding certain details from the police.
GONE GIRL is a first person ‘he-said/she-said’ crime novel about marital discontent and manipulation. The subgenre is now referred to as domestic noir. The complex plot is delivered by two unreliable narrators with overlapping but contradictory accounts of how the couple came to leave New York, where they were both pop culture magazine writers, to relocate back to Nick’s home town on the Mississippi River. Nick’s mother is ill and Nick’s father hates women. Amy’s parents used her as the inspiration for a children’s book series called ‘Amazing Amy’, creating a ‘perfect’ caricature of her to always be in competition with. Nick buys in on a bar, ‘The Bar’, with his twin sister Margot, ‘Go’ and Amy becomes a bored housewife and fish out of water. It becomes clear that Nick has no idea what Amy does at home when he’s at the bar, and even less idea of how she is thinking and feeling.
The main question of the novel is ‘is Nick guilty?’ but as the novel progresses that question morphs more into ‘what is Nick guilty of?’ Nick may have been a bad husband. Inattentive? Insincere? Opportunistic? Oblivious? Nick’s flaws represent the flaws of all men in heteronormative relationships. Gender roles, once so clearly defined, now blurred and morphed, and the expectations of two partners in this new landscape of equality can get dangerously out of sync. Readers are asked to decide if he is to blame for what happened to Amy, when what happened to her is still up for speculation. Flynn prematurely embroils us in the meat of the drama, making us complicit in the unfairness of the court of public opinion.
This story is set in the current American recession with mass job losses, investment crashes, homelessness, property devaluation, mall closures, and the deconstruction of small towns and families due to finances. It is an acknowledgement that relationships do not exist in isolation, in some kind of bubble. Economic strain is a big piece of the pie. And a piece that breeds mistrust and insecurity.
What works about this novel is the pacing and intrigue, and the voices of the cynical characters. Flynn is not afraid to make her characters awful. From inappropriate twin incest humour, to false rape allegations, thieves, liars, and babies as bargaining chips, these people are the worst, which keeps you coming back for more.
GONE GIRL gives a harsh and potentially divisive critique on the mindset of modern women. Gone is the girl of decades past who is the object acted upon. Here is a portrait of women that are a force to be reckoned with. The portrait is largely unflattering, and obscured by layers of societal expectations, which we have the pleasure of peeling back. It feels good to get right down into the true grit of it.
Flynn was influenced by writers like Dennis Lehane (MYSTIC RIVER, GONE BABY GONE, and SHUTTER ISLAND) and Margaret Atwood, and has cited NOTES ON A SCANDAL by Zoë Heller as an inspiration for the controversial, and largely unsatisfying, ending.
‘I love the end of Notes on a Scandal, also a book I love. It ended in that same sort of ominous way. Things aren’t going to go well. You don’t know quite what’s going to happen. People always want to know, “Well, what’s going to happen?” Well you know nothing good, right?’ – interview with Entertainment Weekly.
GONE GIRL will keep you guessing until the very end. You may not like that end, but you can’t deny the realism of it. This novel will leave you surprised at the level of depravity that contempt can breed.