That I read Gone Girl so soon after finishing Dark Places is a tribute to Gillian Flynn’s talent. With so many books on my tbr shelf, I don’t generally read books by the same author back-to-back. Gone Girl had a few extra things going for it, though. Virtually everyone has been talking about it and I just couldn’t resist its lure any longer.
Nick Dunne and Amy Elliott Dunne are just about to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary when Amy goes missing. There are signs of a struggle in their rented Missouri home and Nick can’t really account for his whereabouts that morning, so it doesn’t take too long for the police to start treating him like the prime suspect.
Flynn uses a dual narrative approach to tell the story of their courtship and life in New York where Nick was a magazine writer and Amy wrote quizzes for a variety of publications. Life was pretty good for them. They were beautiful, smart and rich. Well, Amy was rich because her parents – Rand and Mary Beth – had written a series of books called Amazing Amy which had, until recently, been a bit of a cash cow. Then Nick and Amy’s fortunes take a turn for the worse and suddenly they find themselves back in Nick’s hometown.
From the start we know that the golden lives of these two protagonists is slightly tarnished. On the morning of the anniversary, Nick’s reaction to his wife’s greeting of “Well, hello, handsome” is one of “bile and dread” inching up his throat. Then: Amy’s missing.
Gone Girl is a supremely entertaining game of cat and mouse. Their married lives had been marked with anniversary treasure hunts and this year is no different. Amy has left the first in a series of clues for her husband. The clues, and the letters which accompany them, seem to indicate Amy’s awareness of her husband’s unhappiness and her own part in it. But Amy wants to patch things up. The treasure hunt also seems to point to Nick as the person responsible for Amy’s disappearance and slowly the media, Amy’s parents and even his twin sister, Go, start to regard him with suspicion.
But there is more to Gone Girl than a suspenseful mystery. There’s actually quite a damning indictment of the fakery of relationships; the potential for infidelity, boredom, entitlement. We want the fairy tale until we don’t. Marriage is hard work. Nick and Amy’s story is extreme, but recognizable nonetheless.
Flynn is a terrific writer. I mean – gifted. She inhabits Nick’s brain as easily as she inhabits Amy’s. They are sympathetic and reprehensible and downright scary in equal measure. To say much more about the plot would be to spoil the novel’s twists. Suffice to say, this is one married couple I wouldn’t be inviting over for dinner any time soon!