Onyx reviews: Gone Girl by
Gillian Flynn's third novel is very difficult to discuss because half of its
pleasure lies in the surprising revelations in the second half of this cleverly
As Greg House often said, "Everybody lies." This is true in murder
investigations as well as in medicine. However, people don't only lie because
they are guilty of murder. People have secrets that threaten to be exposed when
the police go digging around. The investigators have to figure out why people
are lying, as well as getting to the truth.
Gone Girl begins on the morning of Nick and Amy Dunne's fifth
anniversary. Flynn drops subtle and devious hints that everything isn't going
swimmingly in the Dunne household. When Nick returns home at the end of the
afternoon, Amy is missing. The front door is open, and there are signs of a
struggle. When the police arrive, they take Nick seriously. Is it a homicide, a
kidnapping, or something else?
It wasn't an idyllic marriage. They started out in Manhattan. Amy was
independently wealthy and a minor celebrity because her parents were the authors
of a successful series of children's books that featured her as the protagonist.
Their circumstances change when Nick loses his job after the magazine he works
for closes. Amy's parents contribute to their troubles by investing poorly and
losing most of her money in the process. They decide to move back to Nick's
hometown in Missouri to support his ailing parents. The last chunk of Amy's
savings goes to buy a bar for Nick and his sister Margo.
The first half of the novel is told from two alternating perspectives. One
starts from the morning of Amy's disappearance and proceeds forward from Nick's
point of view. How Amy's disappearance affects his life, and how the police
investigation unfolds. Since Amy can't speak for herself, her story is told in
the form of her diaries, which recount the past five years of married life. She
tries her best to make things work, but it's a struggle. She feels isolated and
alone in Missouri. The two accounts stand in stark contrast. Wherein lies the
One of Amy's anniversary traditions was to create an elaborate treasure hunt
for Nick to follow. The clues were based on obscure details in their
relationship that Nick almost always failed to deduce, a source of conflict and
disappointment for Amy. This year is no different: Nick finds the first clue in
the empty house. In his spare time, while eluding the scrutiny of the police, he
works on the puzzles.
Remember: Everybody lies, and for their own particular purposes. Nick lies to
Amy. Amy lies to Nick. They both lie in their accounts of events. Sometimes they
lie by failing to divulge important details, sins of omission. Gone Girl is
a brilliant demonstration of the unreliable narrator concept taken to the limit.
In the future it may be held in the same high esteem as Agatha Christie's The
Murder of Roger Ackroyd.
Nick's lies start to come to light. He admits to some (to readers, if not
always to the police), and other are exposed by the criminal investigation.
While people sympathized with Nick at first, accusing the police of waging a
witch-hunt against the harried spouse, Nick isn't distraught enough to engender
their undying support. As his inconsistencies and deceptions are exposed,
everyone begins to turn against him: his friends, the police, the media, even
Amy's parents. By the middle of the book, many readers will suspect that he
killed his loving wife. Still, there's no body, so it's all circumstantial.
Shaky alibis. Nick's deadpan demeanor that displays little alarm and no grief.
Life insurance policies. Stories of celebrity stalkers obsessed with Amy.
Overheard conflicts. Infidelities. Amy's need to buy a gun.
Then Flynn pulls the rug out from under everyone, and the less said about
that the better. Suffice to say, Nick and Amy truly deserved each other, in ways
that are impossible to describe. While the resolution isn't entirely satisfying
(maybe only 90% satisfying; some readers might have wished for a greater
comeuppance for the guilty party/parties), the book is such a roller coaster
ride of astute characterization and well-timed and intelligently considered
revelations, that this minor shortcoming can be readily overlooked. Flynn
demonstrates that characters don't necessarily have to be likable to be
compelling, and she has a flair for compulsive plotting. This book is the very
definition of "dark." People who discover her through this novel will
like feel the need to go back to her previous two works to see how she has grown
as a writer.
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