Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

One thing I really love and admire from a writer is when they give us a familiar scenario and manage to completely turn it on its head or take it apart analyse it and rework it into something quite unfamiliar. Deborah Levy’s ‘Swimming Home’ did this for me early in the year with an initially formulaic idea of a middle class holiday and the arrival of a stranger, now Gillian Flynn has done it with a brilliantly written thriller based on a missing spouse with ‘Gone Girl’. No surprise then that both of these books will easily be sitting high up on my list of books of the year without a shadow of a doubt.

Weidenfeld & Nicolson, hardback, 2012, fiction, 416 pages, borrowed from the library

‘Gone Girl’ opens with Nick Dunne telling us how on their fifth wedding anniversary, after a call from the neighbours, goes home to find the door wide open, the lounge smashed up and his wife Amy missing. Soon the police become involved and, as Amy was made infamous in her youth through her parents’ novels featuring the ‘Amazing Amy’, there is a county and soon nationwide interest and search into her disappearance. This is all quite familiar but the first, of many, clever tricks which Gillian Flynn throws into this book is the fact that as we get the story in the present from Nick, we alternately start to read the diary entries from Amy at the start of their relationship.

These diary entries initially start with all the joy and romance of her initial meeting with Nick, her dismay when he vanishes for a while and elation when he comes back. As their relationship goes on it really is all perfect, that is until his parents separately fall ill, Nick and Amy both get made redundant, spend most of her trust fund and wind up living in Nick’s hometown of Carthage, Missouri. This is not a place Amy wants to be and as she writes she tells of her feelings of alienation and that Nick might be buckling under the pressure, and a darker side of her husband is revealed.

The stories start to converge as Nick continues to narrate his version of events in the present and as the police and the public start to cast a suspicious eye on him. Yet as the stories start to meet nothing one spouse is saying about the other quite matches and what really happened is full of twist after twist after twist after twist.

I won’t say anymore about the plot for fear of spoiling anything, and you do want to go into ‘Gone Girl’ knowing as little as possible to be honest. I will say that I think this is one of the best books that I have read all year. I have certainly been completely bowled over by Gillian Flynn’s writing, and not just for incredible and complex plotting, which she makes seem effortless as we read, also for the way in which the world that Nick and Amy inhabit is so vivid and how real they become. I felt I followed their story from young loves dream to rather disillusioned marriage as if I was one of their acquaintances, even when the stories didn’t match which is all the more clever.

I also liked the little intricate bits of them and their marriage was wonderfully done. I thought the back story of ‘Amazing Amy’ was brilliant and how that would affect someone. The issue of cancer and Alzheimer’s which Nick’s parents raise as well as redundancy and the death of the city and the small town were both current and completely believable. The whole world of this novel worked, which is why I couldn’t just label this book as simply a thriller, it is so much more than that.

As you can probably tell I could enthuse about ‘Gone Girl’, and indeed Gillian Flynn’s writing of it, endlessly. I don’t think I have read a book that has taken me to such dark places, it’s not a graphically disturbing novel though get ready to have your mind played with and warped, and have so many twists and turns. I also don’t think I have read a book that so cleverly asks the question ‘how well do you really know your partner’ and answers it in such a shocking, brutal yet also worryingly plausible way. ‘Gone Girl’ is easily one of the best novels I have read this year, I cannot recommend it enough… well, unless you are about to get married, have just got married or have just had a bit of a row with your other half as it might give you second thoughts, or sudden ideas, good and bad.

Who else has read ‘Gone Girl’ and (without spoilers) what did you think? Have you read any of Gillian Flynn’s other novels and if so which ones should I be reading next? I have to admit though the urge to go and get them both now is very, very strong.


Filed under Books of 2012, Gillian Flynn, Review, Weidenfeld & Nicolson

49 responses to “Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

  1. I must admit, I really enjoyed it. It’s rare to have a book that keeps me up all night; I just needed to know what would happen next and I knew I wouldn’t sleep till I found out

  2. KateG

    This is also one of my best reads of the year. I bought a copy when it was first published as Ann and Michael had recommended it on Books on the Nightstand and I couldn’t put it down. Some thrillers are pure escapism and not too reality based. This book seemed very real as Gillian Flynn’s style and plotting could take place. I sill keep thinking about Nick and Amy some three months later. I have not seen my copy of the book since I finished it; various friends keep passing it around saying “You must read this!”

    • I think subconsciously Books on the Nightstand is where I first heard about this book and then suddenly everyone was raving about it. The rave reviews nearly put me off but I am glad they didn’t as I would have been missing out on a treat!

  3. YES – really liked this! Just sent off a review for a mag. I was absolutely screaming at the ending, not sure if that’s a good or bad thing.. Let’s go with good. Have heard that Reese Witherspoon’s production company have bought the film rights and she’s rumoured to be playing the lead.. that would be quite weird wouldn’t it? But yeah, loved it. Big fan of unrealiable narrators and this one keeps you guessing the whole way through. A complete mind f***! x

    • Isn’t it just the mutts nutts of books? I think Reese could be quite good especially as Amazing Amy. I think the fact you might have two unreliable narrators is what is in part the genius of the book, that and the fact it turns the genre on its head and makes it do cartwheels.

      I now have a vision of you screaming as you turned every last page, that would be a wonderful sketch on a comedy show.

  4. This is one of the best books I’ve read all year! The writing is beautiful and occasionally philosophical and the plot keeps you turning pages. I agree prosandcons, it IS a mind f***!

  5. elizabeth

    i read this one with an open mind as i knew there were many twists and turns. it is a compelling read, i’ll give you that one. but i found the conceit of the plot one that i couldn’t quite believe whole-heartedly. also, i found the characters to be completely unreliable. their actions were just too insane to believe.

    • I can understand people not being convinced by this book, but not all fiction should be realistic should it, the crime and sci-fi and fantasy genres would vanish then wouldn’t they?

  6. Bee

    You must read Dark Places next- it begins with an almost comically unlikeable character telling her story, but in such a compelling way that, again, Flynn gives us a novel that you can’t put down. I can’t praise this enough- I thought it was even better than Gone Girl.

  7. Louise

    I LOVED this book and am recommending it to everyone I know. I am now reading one of her others – ‘dark places’.

  8. I read this a couple of months ago and like you was totally bowled over by it. Since then I’ve read another of hers, Sharp Objects, equally good.

  9. Loved it! This was one of my favorites this year too. It completely f’d with my mind and made me suspicious of my husband for days.

    • Hahahaha I am soon to be a divorce so was suspicious of marriage enough as it was, though this has made me look at The Beard in a whole new light. I keep saying ‘do you actually mean that?’ and eyeing him suspiciously. Ha!

  10. I actually just finished this last night, and loved it! Like you, I not only enjoyed the plot with its twists and turns, but Flynn’s writing was amazing.

  11. EllenB

    I have read all three of Flynn’s books and I still think her first, Sharp Objects, was her best. Let’s just say that I was not totally surprised by the ending of Gone Girl although I do admire Flynn’s writing in a very big way.

  12. Lauren

    I loved “gone girl”! It was one of my favorite books of the year. I wanted to find someone else that had read it so we could discuss it! I remember reading the book on a plane and after a certain spoiler was revealed my mouth shot open and hung there! Any book that can make me have a physical reaction like that is a winner! I have her other books on my TBR list.

  13. I agree that it was quite the pageturner. I stayed up well into the night to finish it!

    Also, good job writing a great review with no spoilers!

  14. Well, after your glowing review (and I had heard other ones, but yours was the clincher), I downloaded it yesterday and read it overnight. Yes, it made me get up at 5 this morning to finish it (and nearly miss breakfast and taking the children to school).
    I enjoyed it greatly, thought is was very clever and well written – obviously enthralling. Not quite sure about the ending, though – the very, very end.

    • That is amazing and I might have to show this comment to the publishers and the author… oh and Peter Stothard so he can see what affect a blog can have hahaha.

      The very, very end is a good one I think. Though I can see why some people are less than impressed but I liked it.

  15. Geraldine

    I am currently two thirds of the way through it and enjoying it very much. I hope the ending is as good as the rest.

  16. I agree, potentially the best book I read this year. I positively adored the ending…it haunted me for days after (oh who am I kidding, it still does). I immediately downloaded Flynn’s other two novels and I can’t wait to devour them.

  17. I’m glad you enjoyed this book so much, I wasn’t sure you would. I just finished Elizabeth Taylor’s last novel, Blaming, which features a married couple named Nick and Amy. Oh, and Nick dies early on. It’s Elizabeth Taylor, so it’s in no way a thriller, but I really had to get my head around a likeable “Nick and Amy,” and stop looking for the plot twists.

    • Blaming is another book that I love and I hadn’t thought of the connections with the character titles hahaha, that would have made me suspicious of Taylors book too. Though that has a darkness if I remember it correctly. I must read more Taylor I really like her, thank you for the nudge.

  18. In Gone Girl, Amy says: “One should never marry marry a man who doesn’t own a decent set of scissors. That would be my advice. It leads to bad things.” (Does it ever!) I found the ending of the novel was especially impressive.

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  22. Kristin

    I really liked reading this book. It was one of those “should we only read amazing books” types. Amazing book. Fun to read. Fun fun. I was not crazy for the ending, but only because by that point I had written another ending in my head that I liked better, and really to expect that Gillian would have chosen it out of all the endings she had at her dispose is not fair really. Great book.

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