Book Review – Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Ms. Flynn hooked me with the first line and kept my attention riveted until the very end. I write without reservation that the author crafted the most suspenseful novel I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. I found myself clasping my e-reader tighter and tighter as I transitioned from screen to screen. Gone Girl impressed me on every conceivable level.

While it’s difficult to select one just one aspect the author excelled at, I found the character development Ms. Flynn’s strongest skill. The narrative alternated between Nick Dunne and his missing wife Amy; the latter in the form of diary entries. I found neither one of these characters likeable, but that led me to enjoy the book even more. Stories that feature a saintly protagonist battling a demoniacal antagonist bore me. Both of the main characters in Gone Girl had deep psychological flaws, which made the story much more engaging. Presenting the story in their own words made me upset when bad things happened to them. And these characters deserved their misfortunes.

I found Flynn’s deft use of foreshadowing without peer. With that acknowledgement, I don’t want to give away spoilers. The mystery of Amy’s disappearance captivated me so much that I wouldn’t want to deny other readers the same experience. What I can do is suggest that those planning on reading Gone Girl keep the following passages in mind as they progress through the narrative. To be fair, I picked-up on them when I perused the book.

Amy wrote in her diary, “Give me a man with a little fight in him, a man who calls me on my bullshit. (But who also kind of likes my bullshit.)” (Page 29)

After meeting with police after his wife’s disappearance, Nick wrote, “It was my fifth lie to the police. I was just starting.” (Page 37)

During an interview with a television host, Nick mentioned that he wanted his wife back so he could treat her “how she deserves.” In an inner monologue he added, “Oh, I’d definitely like to treat her how she deserves.” (Page 333)

With such complexity around the clues to Amy’s disappearance, I thought the author did a great job staying on-topic. That’s not easy to do with two unreliable narrators. Amy, who disappeared on her fifth wedding anniversary, left a series of cryptic clues to her disappearance that Nick and the police unraveled. Many of them had multiple explanations and led to different interpretations by the characters viewing them. Due to Ms. Flynn’s lucid style, I could follow them without any trouble.

And for the benefit of those who’ve already perused Gone Girl, I’ll address the 900 pound gorilla in the room: the controversial ending. Admittedly, when I first read it, I felt disappointed. I thought such a gripping story deserved a climactic ending that would correspond to the tension and anxiety in the narrative. The more I reflected on it, though, I had to acknowledge that the author made the proper artistic call with the conclusion.

Once again, I don’t want to give away spoilers. As a generalization, I will comment that based on Nick’s character and Amy’s personality, the conclusion perfectly suited their relationship. The author made it perfectly consistent with their interaction throughout the story. While I can understand why readers would not like the way the novel ended, the author wrapped it up properly. She also brilliantly laid the background for a sequel should she choose to write one. (I’m hoping she does.)

Gillian Flynn did an exceptional job crafting Gone Girl. I wanted to learn more about the characters in spite of my not liking them. I wanted to find out what happened next in the story, but felt nervous about finding out. It takes a gifted author to do all this while crafting a mystery this complex. I liked the writer much more than I liked her characters.