Review: Gone Girl

Gone GirlI try not to read too much about a book before reading it myself, especially one as hyped as Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. As in life, I believe the secret to reading happiness lies in having high hopes and low expectations and I didn’t want my expectations raised before I had the chance to reach my own conclusions.

I needn’t have worried. Gone Girl lived up to the hype. I coveted this book like Gollum coveted his ring, hiding from people I knew on the tram so I didn’t have to interrupt my reading, hanging out for everyone at home to go to bed so I could finish it.

The ‘gone girl’ of the title is Manhattanite Amy Elliot Dunne, wife of Nick Dunne, who disappears on their fifth anniversary from their home in a semi-derelict development in North Carthage, Missouri. Suspicion falls on Nick from the first, even before the evidence against him starts to pile up.

Time, financial pressures and familiarity have taken their toll on Amy and Nick, and Flynn’s forensic examination of their toxic relationship makes for riveting reading. Early in the book Nick describes Amy as ‘an awful fairy-tale reverse transformation’:

the old Amy, the girl of the big laugh and the easy ways, literally shed herself, a pile of skin and soul on the floor, and out stepped this new, brittle, bitter Amy. My wife was no longer my wife but a razor-wire knot daring me to unloop her, and I was not up to the job with my thick, dumb, nervous fingers.

But Nick is no angel either — selfish, passive, deceitful — and as the story unfolds, it became hard to know who’s telling the truth and whose side to take, the unreliability of both narrators adding to the tension.

Flynn’s novel messed with my head, and I say that as a compliment. Even when I thought I’d second guessed her, I’d find myself wrong-footed. The suspense is sustained to the very end, even as more and more blanks are filled in.

The equally loathsome lead characters may put some readers off. And a healthy sense of schadenfreude is called for in order to enjoy watching a briefly happy marriage go horribly, horribly wrong. But for me the book’s wicked, teasing humour took the edge off the nastiness like a numbing shot of vodka.

Or as author and screenwriter Scott Smith put it in hands-down the best puff I’ve read in a long time, ‘It’s as if Gillian Flynn has mixed us a martini using battery acid instead of vermouth and somehow managed to make it taste really, really good.’

Gone Girl (2012) is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson and is destined for Hollywood.

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About Angela Savage

Angela Savage is a Melbourne-based crime writer, who has lived and travelled extensively in Asia. Her first novel, Behind the Night Bazaar won the 2004 Victorian Premier's Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript. She is a winner of the Scarlet Stiletto Award and has thrice been shortlisted for Ned Kelly awards. Her third novel, The Dying Beach, was also shortlisted for the 2014 Davitt Award. Angela teaches writing and is currently studying for her PhD in Creative Writing at Monash University.
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13 Responses to Review: Gone Girl

  1. Angela – Thanks for this thoughtful review. I think it’s very difficult to make unpleasant characters interesting and worth reading about. I’ll admit I’ve not taken that risk myself .I usually try to have at least some characters who are appealing in some way. Flynn gets points for taking that risk.

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    • angelasavage says:

      I agree, Margot. I usually like at least one person in the narrative I can either identify with or root for. Although this was absent in Gone Girl, I still enjoyed the writing, suspense and wicked humour.

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  2. darkdirk says:

    Souds good. Thanks for this review. I’ll check it out

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  3. darkdirk says:

    I love books and movies where all the characters are unlikeable

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  4. I will have to look out for this one, thanks.

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  5. ana74x says:

    I just finished this, without knowing anything beforehand. Brilliant story, and I loved the ending, so fitting.

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  6. kathy d. says:

    Very good review. However, I’m one of those readers who has to like at least one main character, and I dislike unreliable narrators. Also, I read one book by this author, which was creepy and ultimately, I didn’t like it. It was like reading the case notes of a totally dysfunctional — no, pathological family. Not my cup of tea.
    I liked your review though.

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  7. Pingback: My year of reading 2013 | Angela Savage

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