The short: 3.5/5 ✦. A slow-burn thriller that balances its weak characters with the power of the plot twist.
This is one messed up book.
Like, both Nick and Amy are terrible people.
It’s hard to talk about this without spoilers, which I’d like to try to avoid until the end. Basically, what you’ve probably heard (or seen, now that it’s a movie) about this book is probably true. There’s a twist of a very twisty nature, one that I actually did know before starting, but to be honest, it’s almost a given, because the book is pretty long and there’s only so much that can be talked about before revealing . . . Well, you’ll see.
The first part is divided up into Nick’s current telling of the disappearance of his wife and Amy’s diary, and the second part is spoilerific but hardly any more uplifting.
It basically made me never ever want to get married.
I mean, I realize that sounds a little drastic, but isn’t it true that you don’t really know someone until you spend all day, every day with them? Why else would so many marriages fail within the first couple years? While Gone Girl is obviously a worst-case-scenario of that fear, it grounds itself by playing on common (stereotypical) judgments men and women have of each other. There’s no such as the “Nice Guy” or the “Cool Girl” – or no matter what he says, he really is after sex, or no matter what she says, she wants commitment. I’m not saying all these are correct or even proper, but there are the thoughts many of us have. Many of us women especially want to be a Strong, Independent Woman, but we also want to be loved and cherished and protected, and it’s hard to combine the two. And this exploration between being a doormat and being controlling is where, to me, Gone Girl falters.
First, I have to say I totally believed Diary!Amy was real. I only got suspicious when Nick’s account of certain events didn’t match hers, and even that early on, I didn’t think he was as bad as everyone was making him out to be. But then, I knew Amy was alive, though I didn’t know how. For a moment, I entertained the idea they were working together, but the diary didn’t make sense that way, and then it was revealed Nick was cheating (that was actually more of a shock to me: “open the door im outside”). But anyway, I believed what Diary!Amy said, especially her judgments of other women, as awful as that makes me sound. I don’t want to be a controlling girlfriend/wife, but I also don’t want to be walked all over, either. And society makes it seem like there’s no happy medium – you must pick one or the other. So even though I’m not nearly as attractive and desired as Amy, I thought I knew how she felt as an independent but empathetic modern woman.
I was fooled. Fooled as badly as the police were. The real Amy is a terrible person (which I may have mentioned), who stole, lied, fucked, and killed her way to getting whatever she wanted. And that was the letdown. In the end, Amy was a stereotypical “bitch” and Nick was a stereotypical “guy obsessed with sex and so did really stupid, shitty things.” Maybe that was the point, I don’t know, but Gone Girl doesn’t break new ground, especially not by thriller/mystery standards. Nick is a man, so he cheated. Amy is a woman, so she got pissed and sought revenge. That’s it, that’s the whole plot. The only surprise was the ending; I honestly thought Nick was gonna just kill her and then maybe himself. But no, he’s got eighteen-plus years (more, if she gets pregnant again) of hell ahead of him where he has to constantly be perfect or risk losing everything.
A happy book, this isn’t.
One interesting thing was how quickly my alliances would switch depending on whose perspective I was reading. Either pre- or post-twist, both Nick and Amy garnered certain amounts of my sympathy as well as my suspicion, and it was almost rather alarming that I would intermittently find myself believing one’s account over the other, especially when the full facts weren’t made known until nearly the end of the book. I argued that my opinion changed depending on new information, but it probably just means I really shouldn’t be a detective.
In any case, Gone Girl is definitely a page-turner and mostly deserving of all the accolades. I’m interested to see how the movie adapted it, particularly since I’ve heard it stayed fairly faithful. The first half is better than the second half, and I’m still angry about certain parts. Overall, it’s pretty good and I’d recommend it with my standard grain of salt.
Header image: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, published May 24th 2012 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson.