Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - Book Review
*No plot spoilers, but some details about the structure of the story.*
Gone Girl is described as "the thriller of the year" and a book that "you'll force your friends to read so you can talk about it with them", so I had pretty high expectations of it. As it turns out, these descriptions are spot on. I finished this book last night and couldn't wait to write a review, which I suppose is my version of talking to people.
The story revolves around a man (Nick) whose wife (Amy) goes missing, leaving him the prime suspect for her disappearance and murder. Just in case you didn't read the blurb (or the title), though, the first page reads "Part One: Boy Loses Girl" and chapter 1 is titled "The Day Of", so straight away you know something big is going to happen pretty quickly.
The chapters alternate between Nick and Amy's points of view. Amy's are written as a diary and start from when she meets Nick, but Nick's read more as if he's narrating and start from the day she disappears. The first few chapters are spent setting up the characters and the history of their relationship, which is risky. As soon as you start reading you are anxious for Nick to discover Amy is missing, but it actually works well, since the back-story of their marriage is important information for understanding everyone's reactions to Amy's disappearance.
This book would not work if written in any other way, as the first-person POVs give us extremely deep insight into the two main characters' thoughts, helping us to symphathise with them, despite their obvious flaws. The deep POV is particularly pronounced when their actions and thoughts are at odds, which becomes more and more frequent as the book progresses.
Once she goes missing, Amy's diary entries continue chronologically from when they began dating. We flip between these 'flashbacks' and Nick's part of the story (always titled with the number of days since the event, e.g. "2 Days After") until just over half way through. This is when Part 2 begins and we reach Amy's version of "The Day Of". At this point, both POVs converge and we read both character's thoughts on everything that happens from then onwards.
Part 2 was a major turning point in the novel for me. For most of the first half I was reading another book at the same time, so I trundled along with it, not really feeling desperate to know what happens next. The story builds gradually, like a roller-coaster slowly clanking up that first enormous hill, Nick growing ever more helpless and desperate with each chapter. Then Part 2 arrives and Amy's "Day Of" chapter leaves you weightless for a moment, cresting the hill, forcing you to read on whilst the gravity of the story drags you downward to the finale. At this point I raced through the book, finishing it in a matter of days.
Flynn's writing, although dark and sometimes gruesome, is wonderfully vivid and manages to convey emotions and feelings in a way I've never read in a book before. I did get slightly bored with the sheer amount of metaphors towards the end: "A cobweb trailed from her hair like a wedding veil.", "Floating in and out of whatever room I'm in, like a patch of bad weather.", "So far nothing, like trying to catch water." This is because I was desperate to plough through the story and find out what happens next, and they slowed things down for me somewhat. That's more a comment on the brilliance of the book and my impatience though, since the descriptions throughout the book are excellent and are really, for me, what makes this book stand out from other thrillers.
Speaking of the genre, I recently found out that the difference between a thriller and a crime novel is that a thriller gives the reader information that the protagonist is unaware of, whilst crime novels tend to be the opposite, with the reader discovering the clues along with the main character. Although Gone Girl is primarily described as a thriller, this book is an amazing mixture of both these genres, with Nick and the police discovering clues along the way, alongside other small details being fed to us through Amy's diary entries. This clever drip-feeding is what keeps you turning the page, and it is a complex story, but it's certainly not difficult to follow.
Other characters help to balance out the extremes of Nick and Amy. Nick's twin-sister Margo, Amy's mother Marybeth, and Boney the police officer, all offer contrasting female personalities. On the male side, Nick's alzheimer's-ridden father is used by Flynn to reflect Nick's own less-than-perfect personality traits, and also cause him and Margo to reminisce about their late mother - the antithesis of Amy.
Overall, I loved Gone Girl, and for someone who doesn't read a lot of thrillers, it's a great introduction the genre. The characters are compelling and, despite being extreme, are still relatable, since the story revolves around their relationship. I would never describe the first part as 'slow', but it definitely picks up pace at the half way point. If you're looking for a gripping, complex story with some unexpected twists, then you can't do much better than Gone Girl right now.
As a side note, the movie is out soon and stars Ben Affleck as Nick. The trailer is great and I'm really looking forward to seeing how they handle the narrative. I also hope they don't change the story too much, as it would be a real shame for the movie viewers to miss out on all the little details that make the book so great.
Have you read Gone Girl? Are you going to see the movie? Leave me a comment and let me know what you think!