Book review: Gone Girl

Last updated 12:26 07/02/2013

"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 every marriage: What are you thinking? How are you feeling? Who are you? What have we done to each other? What will we do now?"

Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl is a punchy novel, for want of a better word. It is in some ways a terse read, yet filled with tension, twists and turns that lead down dark alleyways that sometimes turn out to be dead ends, other times red herrings.

It is a story that you'll read, then at a certain point, it will flip on you and make you want to go back and re-read every single word from the beginning, trying to pinpoint the moment - find those tiny hidden clues that are scattered like Easter eggs in some kind of surreal treasure hunt - the moment when it all changed.

While I wouldn't necessarily say that I liked the characters, what I can say is that you will empathise and sympathise with both of them at different points. It's what makes the novel such a spectacularly wild ride - you're never sure at any moment which one of the two narrators are telling the truth, and you will go through moments of intense hate and instant like. gone girl cover

Gone Girl has all the ingredients for a hit Hollywood movie, and indeed the film rights have already been sold. Yet it's also a clever book, perhaps one of the best psychological thrillers to come out of last year. It starts with what seems like a straightforward whodunnit plot, a beautiful wife gone missing (the Amazing Amy), and the husband, Nick, who acts oddly and can't quite seem to express the right emotions. He immediately becomes the prime suspect, especially when we discover that on the morning his wife went AWOL, he was doing something he really shouldn't have been. Tsk.

But don't get too smug, because Flynn has a surprise for you. A few, in fact. The twists, when they come, are so unexpected that they will take your breath away.

This is not a novel without flaw. For one, the second half of the book is weaker than the punchy first half, but the overall impression is still one of strength. The ending is also polarising. I won't give away anything here, except to say that I was slightly disappointed by it, mainly because I felt it didn't live up to the promise and might perhaps have gone a bit too far in the other direction in an effort to keep the reader intrigued.

There are so many wonderful character observations that Flynn makes in this novel through her narrators though. Amazing Amy, detailed in the book through diary entries which at first make her seem much younger and giddier than her real age (late 30s), has a penchant for dark humour that will make you giggle nervously while inspecting your own soul anxiously.

She has a knack for digging right to the soul of the issue. If you don't believe me, pick up the book and wait till you get to the part where she writes about "cool girls". It is a powerful insight into gender relations and societal expectations.

Nothing in this novel is quite what it seems. It's probably one of the best pieces of advice I can give you going into it. You will find yourself forming alliances with one character or another, nodding along and cheering them on, then it could all suddenly turn on you and you'll be left out in the cold with no lights on, wondering what happened.

What are you thinking, Amy?

Have you read Gone Girl?

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