Sunday, September 2, 2012

Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn

I feel the need to use the overused statements that you would expect: I couldn't put it down; Flynn keeps you guessing; This book is brilliant; etc., etc.  While those things are true, I also feel that this book deserves more that that.  Flynn has written - and written well - a delightful thriller that is evil to its core, as well as completely addicting.  While the book is not perfect by any means, it is very good.  The twisted plot is matched only be the characters.  To me, it is the epitome of an indulgent summer beach read.  (Warning: Spoilers Ahead)

Gone Girl tells the story of a husband and wife, Nick and Amy Dunne.  Amy disappears on their fifth anniversary, having left behind her traditional anniversary scavenger hunt for her husband.  The first part of the book alternates chapters between Nick's experiences and Amy's old diary entries.  I'll admit that, while this part is well-written, the reader only becomes more and more convinced that Nick killed his wife.  All of the evidence points to him and it is even revealed that he had a young mistress with whom he'd been sleeping for over a year.  As you near the end of the first part, Flynn wants you to believe that, despite his insistence to the opposite, Nick has committed an awful crime and his lies are coming unraveled.  Then, Flynn changes the game completely.

Amy set Nick up.  She, bored and unhappy in their Missouri life after leaving her lifelong home of Manhattan, realizes that Nick is cheating on her and decides to punish him.  The second section of the book continues Nick's story, but also gives us Amy's perspective starting the day she disappears.  She details her elaborate plan, a year in the making, and how she is exacting the worst revenge possible on Nick.  Nick, meanwhile, begins to put the pieces together and his eyes are opened to a frightening pattern in his wife's life. Amazing Amy, the inspiration for her parents best-selling children's books, is, in fact, a narcissistic sociopath and master manipulator.  Her attention to detail leaves no room for discovery.  Nick is trapped and unsure how to play Amy's game and make it out alive.

I do not want to give away all the details, because those are truly what make this book worth reading.  Amy has thought of everything and is eager to point that out to Nick and, by extension, the reader.  Once Amy is revealed to the reader as the true perpetrator, the plot moves quickly and the book becomes very difficult to set down.  You begin to root for Nick, but Amy is always one step ahead of him.  

The ending of this book feels weird, for sure.  Amy and Nick remain married, living together.  Nick cannot and will not leave her for fear of her retribution.  Amy hopes to they will eventually settle into a lifelong state that mirrors the early days of their marriage.  She truly expects Nick to fall back in love with her, despite confessing her sins to him and holding complete control over his life.  It feels unbelievable and, yet, there is no other way it could end.  Nick calls their new life "one long frightening climax."  

It did not surprise me at all to discover that a movie is being made of this work.  Reese Witherspoon is producing it.  A small part of me hopes that she plays Amy.  I would love to see her truly stretch her acting abilities and play such a manipulative villain.  If she does not, though, the success of this movie is going to be truly dependent on casting.  Flynn's characters will require skill to play, particularly if the director wants to successfully execute the dramatic plot twists.  

This book does not have much character development.  The writing is not perfect.  It is a genre that relies on shocking twists to keep readers engaged.  There is a fair amount of coarse language and some definite adult content.  Flynn even acknowledges such in her Author's Note at the end by telling her son that, if it is not yet 2024, he is too young to be reading her work.  In spite of these things, Flynn knows her style and executes it well.  She has written a fabulous book that should and does stand apart from others of its type.  This is hardly the great American novel, but it could easily be called one of the best books of 2012.

What has your favorite beach read been this summer?

Pages: 432
Date Finished: September 2, 2012

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