The movie for Gillian Flynn’s novel Gone Girl was released in 2014. Everyone was reading it and/or talking about it back then, and my cousin, who had read the book, told me it was great. But I avoided it. Too much hype. Plus, I wasn’t interested in mystery novels. I have no patience for them.
Now it’s 2017. After watching the last half of the Gone Girl movie, I was so intrigued that I immediately downloaded the e-book from my library and was hooked on the story from its first sentence.
Though I knew how the story would end, I was still engrossed in it and curious to see how the events would unfold.
On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears.
Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer? (Goodreads)
“Hell, at this point, I can’t imagine my story without Amy. She is my forever antagonist. We are one long frightening climax.”
It was hard to categorize this book when I was done. I record my reading in a database created for overzealous readers who are crazy about reading and when I had to select a genre for Gone Girl, I was torn between mystery and thriller. Certainly, there are some elements of mystery in the story, but it strikes me as a thriller. However on Goodreads, the most popular category for it is mystery. I decided to file it under thriller, though, because the twists in the story makes it lean heavily toward that genre.
That paragraph was probably totally pointless, but no matter. This is a blog and this section of the post is about all my thoughts on Gone Girl (the paragraph above contains my foremost thoughts on it).
My next thought on Gone Girl was how much it reminded me of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wall-Paper. But I’ll discuss that later since I’ll have to mention many spoilers, which will screw you over for the story. This is the sort of story that readers should approach without having been spoiled, unless such things do not affect you.
The story is told using a first-person narrator, sometimes that’s Nick and other times it’s entries from Amy’s diary. Flynn takes advantage of such narration to often mislead readers and trick them into trusting her characters. I was often tricked as I read and I easily fell for the characters’ innocence. I both liked and disliked the characters as Flynn intended me to do, so for the entire novel, I was simply a puppet playing along with the master puppeteer that is Gillian Flynn as I saw what she wanted me to see and believed what she wanted me to believe and questioned nary a thing, which left me quite surprised when I happened upon a sharp twist in the plot.
I love that sort of storytelling.
This manipulation from the characters and in the storytelling, as well as the characters’ voices, made me think of Joe in You by Caroline Kepnes, a thriller novel told from the perspective of a guy who’s stalking a girl. The antagonists in both stories have similar personalities and the voice they use in relaying their side of the story is also similar in tone, very arrogant. I highly recommend those who read and enjoyed Gone Girl to also read You, if they haven’t already done so.
Though the plot is linear, there are many flashbacks throughout to show character development as well as to sometimes mislead the reader. Amy’s disappearance acts as an anchor in the plot to which events lead up to or away from, as well as to direct which character, Amy or Nick, dominates the story. I really like this aspect of the story because of how it affects the reader. It’s interesting that Nick speaks first in the story, which helps in blaming him for Amy’s disappearance.
Spoiler territory below. Jump to Overall if you’d rather avoid it.
It was hard to continue without including spoilers.
Piggybacking on what I said above about areas in which a particular character dominates the story, I do find it interesting that Nick starts the story thus making him the dominant voice in the first section, in contrast to Amy’s submissiveness in her diary entries. It easily paints Nick as the guilty party to both the detectives (in the story) and the readers, since Amy and Flynn both want their readers to believe Nick responsible for Amy’s disappearance.
That along with Nick’s weird behavior, obsession with his wife’s head (why?), and daydreams of her crawling across the kitchen floor covered in blood, made me believe him guilty despite his plea of innocence and having seen the end of the movie.
Amy dominates the second part of the story and though it is a horrible she has done, I can’t help liking her voice in the second part: Boy Meets Girl. Her voice is much stronger and confident and I liked the criticisms she makes of society and her parents. I wondered if that was intentional, that all us women should fall for Amy in this second part despite her horrible deed, only to see her unravel in the third part and revealed as a monster.
Speaking of the third part, it’s that section in the movie that made me really want to read the book. In the movie, like in the book, it’s Nick’s show of submissiveness that lures Amy back to him. When she returns home (in the movie), Amy says that Nick’s act as a submissive husband is the type of partner she wants Nick to be. It’s pretty much the same in the book. And from that moment, especially after Amy reveals she’s pregnant, Nick becomes willingly submissive and seems to like what Amy’s manipulation have made of him. He’s rendered powerless by her great feminine power: to become pregnant. And that made me think of The Yellow Wall-Paper.
The end of The Yellow Wall-Paper, actually, when the woman crawls over her husband because he no longer controls her. It’s basically the same thing in Gone Girl. Amy has Nick in her clutches and has effectively made him powerless. She doesn’t even need him to make a baby when she decides to do so, having already procured his semen (poor dude. I felt sorry for him there. He really thought he had outwitted her).
The end of Gone Girl also reminded me strongly of the end of Jane Eyre. Nick now has no choice but to remain with Amy and rely on her for his public survival. (I mean, he can’t divorce her now because of his concern for the baby as well as how the public will regard him, so he will forever be manipulated by her.) He has been tamed; similar to Mr. Rochester, who was maimed and blinded and literally has to experience the world through Jane’s eyes.
I also thought Desi, the slime ball, an interesting character. He’s creepy and I guess his function is to show the dark side of Prince Charming fairytales: The white knight isn’t always a great guy, despite his display of gentlemanliness. And his palace is not always a haven; it’s sometimes a prison. With Desi, I again unwillingly admired Amy for rescuing herself from his beautiful mansion, fortified to trap her. How else was she to escape? Though, one could argue that Amy has manipulated the reader throughout the entire novel, even at moments when we read from her perspective (not through the diary) and see that she is powerless in her current situation. Maybe Desi’s mansion wasn’t the prison Amy wanted us to believe it to be.
Such an entertaining read. I highly recommend it to those who enjoy thrillers and mysteries or just want something quick. It’s a good one for the beach. There’s also a lot going on in the story to pick at and discuss, such as the pressure society places on male and female roles in relationships and Nick’s insecurity as a man (he feels so threatened by angry women and pregnant women, especially angry, pregnant women) and Amy’s personality.
I’m tempted to declare myself a Gillian Flynn fan, but I’d like to read another of her books before I do so. Gone Girl left a good impression so I believe whatever else of hers I read will be just as good.
Also, I now believe I’m a fan of unreliable narrators. I like how they subtly manipulate the reader into believing them.