Book Talk: *Gone Girl*, by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl
Gillian Flynn (Facebook)
Crown (2012), Hardcover (ISBN 030758836X / 9780307588364)
Fiction, 432 pages
Source: purchased e-book (E-ISBN 9780307588388)
Reason for reading: personal, seasonal

Opening lines: “When I think of my wife, I always think of her head. The shape of it, to begin with. The very first time I saw her, it was the back of the head I saw, and there was something lovely about it, the angles of it.
Like a shiny, hard corn kernel or a riverbed fossil. She had what the
Victorians would call finely shaped head. You could imagine the
skull quite easily.

“I’d know her head anywhere.

“And what’s inside it.”

Book description, from the publisher’s website:
Marriage can be a real killer.
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 from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. 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? 

As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

Comments: Gone Girl has been one of those “everyone’s talking about it” books since early this past summer. I don’t read a lot of genre fiction–which, as a murder mystery, this technically is–but I wanted to read this one before people stopped talking about it. That said, it’s really not that easy to talk about, between the potential spoiler minefield of any plot discussion–it is a murder mystery–and the fact that…yeah, almost everyone’s talked about it already.

I haven’t read any of Gillian Flynn’s fiction before this (although I do remember reading the book reviews she wrote for Entertainment Weekly several years back), but I have seen it praised, and I understand why. In Gone Girl she smartly blends plot-based suspense with psychological intrigue, and does it through the alternating perspectives of two unreliable–and frequently unlikable–narrators. The novel explores some provocative and unsettling questions about marriage: in general, its particular shape for any two people involved in it, and just how much of our real selves we allow into it.

But I wouldn’t advise taking Nick and Amy Dunne as any sort of models for marriage, even of the cautionary variety. They’re one of those couples whose individual dysfunctionalities match up well enough to form an entity with its own unique flavor of screwed-up. Flynn’s insights into both of their minds had me questioning, shifting allegiances, and anxious to see how it would all play out. And for me, it was the twists and turns of Amy and Nick’s thoughts, even more than the plot in which they’re involved, that made Gone Girl riveting reading. It’s dark, disturbing, and perfect for this spooky-reading time of year.

Rating: 4 of 5
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