On the basis that there’s really nothing wrong with going with the Zeitgeist (albeit a few years late) I knew it was really time to read ‘Gone Girl’. It felt like one of those boomerang books: starting to sound ‘too popular to be good’ and then swinging back round into ‘very tempting’ during the course of the media hype. It’s also a test for me to see how effectively I can write about a thriller without giving away any twists – here goes …
There are two narrators in ‘Gone Girl’. The first is Nick, married to Amy, who introduces the book by telling us ‘When I think of my wife, I always think of her head…You could image the skull quite easily…Like a child, I picutre opening her skull, unspooling her brain and sifting through it…’ It’s creepy, and Nick’s exposition/description of his uncomfortable, blame-ridden marriage serves to make it sound all the more ominous. Nick’s chapters are dated chronologically ‘the day of’, ‘one day after’ marking time from his fifth anniversary, the date on which his wife ‘disappeared’. Nick’s problem with this disappearance is that he doesn’t sound like a good husband and that he doesn’t sound trustworthy. Not to the police, not to the media and certainly not to the readers. There’s nothing like a good unreliable narrator, when done well, and Flynn does an excellent job of setting up her flawed male in the equation.
Which leads us to her flawless female. Amy’s story is told through her diary, first dated January 8, 2005. The two narratives are clearly going to meet up at one point, but until that happens we’re faced with two increasingly incompatible accounts of the same relationship. Amy, incidentally, presents herself as pretty near perfect; in an implicit comparison with her all-too-human husband she is joyful, optimistic and incredibly cool – think ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ but without the angst or low self-esteem. Despite an inventively traumatic childhood (her parents made their fortune by writing ‘Amazing Amy’ books, in which the alter ego is always slightly more successful than the real daughter) she is well adjusted, confident and content. If she’s sounding a bit dull, remember, the book begins with her mysterious disappearance. I’m sure it’s not a spoiler to say she is much more complex than her perky, sexy January diary entries suggest.
The whole book is a lot of fun. Much has been made of the gender politics, though personally I’d rather not get too bogged down in them. I honestly think this is good escapist fiction, with a healthy dose melodrama. If you are tempted to expound on either Amy or Nick’s musings about the tribulations faced by modern men and women, I would recommend you bring the same skepticism as you do to everything else they say. Please don’t be too doubting though, the truth will emerge at some point and that’s when the plot twists and turns really start to get good!