Nearly every “Best of 2012” book list I read at the beginning of this year praised Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. It is very captivating.
Gone Girl opens with the discovery that Amy Dunne – the wife of our other lead character, Nick – has disappeared. All that’s left behind are the signs of a struggle and the first clue to a anniversary treasure hunt that Amy had planned for Nick. The police try to solve the mystery of Amy’s disappearance, while Nick tries to solve the clues Amy left for him. The narrative switches between Nick’s frame of mind in the days following Amy’s disappearance, and Amy’s diary entries over the course of their 5 years of marriage — a device that Ms Flynn uses expertly to play with our interpretation of events as they unfold.
Is Amy alive, or is she dead? Did Nick kill her, or didn’t he? I’d read a paragraph and think: he wouldn’t have done that if he was guilty! I’d turn the page and read a few more lines: he wouldn’t have said that if he was innocent! The mystery continues until exactly halfway through the book. Then the story pivots. It’s hard to say what I mean by this without giving away any plot twists. Suffice it to say that at the midpoint, the mystery is solved. We know what happened to Amy. The discovery isn’t predicable, but it’s unsurprising. I mean, there are only a finite number of ways that a missing person case can turn out. You know the options, you just don’t know which option it is. Until you do.
And then what?
The second half of the book is the part that runs away with you. I was torn between wanting to read every word, and wanting to skip 5 pages ahead to find out what happens. Flynn continues to make you like a character and then hate them, then love them again. Much like the book’s genre, the characters defy categorization: they slip between. They are complex, clever, likable, and evil in the same breath. It was this layering that I enjoyed most about the book. That, and Amy’s clues (I’ll say no more).
The ending is almost darkly comic — another factor that makes the book hard to place in terms of genre. The novel raises interesting questions about gender and identity, gender and violence, money and power, and calls into question what is real and what is imagined. Yet it remains throughout a fun and entertaining read. Is that enough of recommendation?