Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Review: Gone Girl by Gillian FlynnGone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Published by Crown on June 5, 2012
Pages: 475
Goodreads |

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. 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?

My good friend accosted me with Gone Girl one day in the office and was like “YOU HAVE TO READ THIS. I HAVE TO SEE THIS MOVIE WITH YOU.” So, I read it. Truthfully, I devoured it. I read 50 pages the first day, 200 the second, and 175 the third. I came home from work, crawled in bed, and let Gillian Flynn take me on a wild ride.

I was spoiled on the big reveal at the beginning of section two by watching the trailer for the movie a few weeks ago. I though, “Eh, I’ll probably never get around to reading this book anyway.” Shows you how things change. Honestly, it didn’t make much of a difference. There were plenty of moments that I never saw coming. There were plenty of times when I furiously texted my friend with “WTF DID I JUST READ?” That is the beauty of Gone Girl. The major plot spoiler didn’t spoil the story. How many times does that happen?

Flynn crafts a psychological thriller hell-bent on making you examine your own identity.Who are you? Is the “you” presented to the world the “you” inside your head? More importantly, what happens when you show your true self to your partner and they end up hating you? I found these identity issues so intriguing. Amy’s definition of “Cool Girl” is rather spot on.

Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.

My husband reminded me a few weeks ago that before our first date I said “I love football!” That’s not entirely true. I like going to football games. I don’t really like watching it on TV. I was really just angling to get him to ask me to go to a football game. Luckily, I feel like I can be myself with him so I dodged a bullet. But I was horrified when I realized that even I tried to be “Cool Girl” to some extent. I wanted him to like me so badly that I fibbed about myself to make him go that extra mile. But isn’t that what we all do? Don’t we all try to be our ideal selves with a new partner before we let our guard down and let them see who we really are? I love that Flynn made Nick AND Amy do this. They both hid themselves from one another. It’s not just a male or a female “thing.” It’s a part of the human condition. We all do it.

I also thought Gone Girl was a treatise on how not to raise your children. I mean, Amy’s parents did a fantastic job screwing her up. Between all the lost Hopes and the Amazing Amy books, it’s no surprise that Amy is nuts. Certifiably nuts. Nick is included here too. His father basically negatively nurtured Nick’s emotional detachment from women. Why should he put himself on an emotional limb with women? They’re all “stupid bitches.” Let’s agree to not raise our children this way, okay?

This rest of this review is vaguely spoiler-y, FYI. I think the ending is my favorite part. Flynn takes a bold move ending Gone Girl the way she does. Readers expect the bad guy to get what is coming to him/her. I think a lot of people were upset when this doesn’t happen at the end of Gone Girl. But I think it’s bold and brilliant. It shows me that Flynn wrote the book SHE wanted to write rather than the book she knew that her audience would like. This kind of atypical ending really appeals to me. It makes me pay attention to the craft of writing. Isn’t the best punishment View Spoiler » No one really gets what they want. Everyone is still pretending. No one is happy. I think it’s brilliant and I applaud Flynn for having the guts to write it that way.

Gone Girl left me feeling like equal parts voyeur and one who is surveiled. I’m reminded a lot of Michel Foucault’s theoretical work, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, especially his theory about panopticism. He suggests that the always visible inmate is “the object of information, never a subject in communication.” Nick and Amy’s entire relationship is founded on secrecy and not communication with each other. They always talk about each other but never with each other. They’re both the object of each other’s communication but never the subject. My point here is that Flynn’s ending means that both of them are prisoners. And that, I think, is a brilliant ending.


© 2014, Jessica Workman Holland. All rights reserved.