You’ve seen the film. You’ve read the reviews. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn has been a household name ever since the 2014 movie adaptation became a mainstream must-see. This twisted thriller ensnares audiences of all ages, feeding fear into mundane life.
Who are you? What have we done to each other? What will we do?
When the beautiful Amy Dunne disappears on her fifth wedding anniversary, blame falls on husband, Nick. Every detail of their relationship comes to light as police try to uncover what went wrong and who is responsible. Nick begins to piece together the terrifying truth and realises his actions may have fatal consequences.
First and foremost, Gone Girl is great entertainment with intellectual depth. Flynn balances thrilling action with her heady description for a fast-paced narrative with literary soul. You’ll be digging your nails into the arms of your chair at the same time as weighing each word in your head. Gone Girl is compulsive reading.
Now that I’ve sung its praises, I want to look deeper. Gone Girl is a split-narrative novel with alternating chapters from the first person perspectives of first Nick and then Amy. This technique lets readers inside their minds. The unreliability of these narrators and, specifically, their tendency to withhold crucial information, leads to both shocking revelations and insidious resentment. I wish I’d read the book before watching the movie so these twists could have had their full impact on me. (Ps. The movie and book have different endings.)
My major criticism relates to voice – by which I mean Flynn’s unique way of writing, encompassing every aspect of her style and grammar. I felt that Nick and Amy sounded too similar. At first, this didn’t worry me. However, it grew irritating that a man and a woman with extremely different world views would use virtually the same vocabulary and speech patterns. A friend confirmed Flynn has this problem in her earlier novels too, which puts me off from wanting to read more of her work. Depending on your fussiness, this might not bother you.
Book to movie comparison? Risking the lynch mob, I think the movie is better. The result of a movie adaption is an airtight and layered plot speaking for itself, divorced from the flaws of narrative voice. In fact, Gillian Flynn herself was the film’s screenwriter. Safe to say that she perfected her own formula via the movie.
Mail on Sunday reviewed Gone Girl as “a book you’ll be begging other people to read, just so you can discuss it with them”. This is probably the truest statement. If you love it or hate it, you won’t be able to resist talking about it.