“The question was frighteningly soulful and literal: Who would I be without Amy to react to? Because she was right: As a man, I had been my most impressive when I loved her- and I was my next best self when I hated her. I had known Amy only seven years, but I couldn’t go back to life without her. Because she was right: I couldn’t return to an average life. I’d known it before she’d said a word.”
Gone Girl, written by Gillian Flynn, is a marriage rollercoaster, flinging you from literal heights just when you think you’re about to get a firm grasp on the next turn. Numerous times throughout the novel you get flickers and hints of what is to come, but I often found myself doubting if the author would actually go down the route suggested, only to discover that yes, indeed, the author went down that dark, dark road.
The book is a psychopathic wonderland, delving into the complexities of marriage and how it, and people, can change drastically. Or maybe even how people paint themselves into a picturesque partner, purposively or to achieve that unattainable ideal. The novel begins with the fifth anniversary of Nick and Amy Dunne, a golden couple who have unfortunately dimmed after the trial of enduring each other for numerous years. The beginning of their relationship shined as much as the setting of its foundation, New York City, but the withdrawal to a small town in Missouri to care for ailing family members marks the commencement of their once-envious relationship’s drastic deterioration. When Amy suddenly disappears on the morning of their anniversary, Nick is caste into a world where not only will he be judged by the outside world, but he must also judge the reality of his actions and those of his missing wife. What follows constantly jolts the question: how did it get this bad?
Flynn creates characters that are beyond life-like, jumping from the pages to grab you and draw you into a literal world of relating and feeling almost at odds with doing so. At numerous points throughout the book I paused, marking my place, only to contemplate how my own relationships had mirrored the subtle frustrations, highs, victories or harrowed acceptance of another person’s actions. The further you read, the more shocked you are at those early ponderings. You can’t help but sympathize with Diary Amy, but that sympathy is thrown back in your face when the reality of the situation is revealed later on in the book.
The story line is complex, flipping between Nick and Amy’s view every other chapter; Nick’s chapters telling the events happening currently and for the first half of the book Amy’s story is told through diary entries left behind in the years before and leading up to her disappearance. It reads as an exciting and fast-paced crime novel. Flynn’s background and education in journalism shines through with each riveting chapter as the search for Amy and its ensuing consequences unfold with riveting deviousness. The use of treasure hunts is mirrored throughout the novel and marks highpoints (or potentially devastating low points) for the characters involved. The bouts of humor keep the storyline from sinking too far into the disturbing and the writing style is unique, flowing with the emotions each character is feeling from one chapter to the next.
When considering the overall themes of the book- change, deception, revenge, and what one person will endure for the love of another- you have to pause to consider the main message hidden away in the pages and what Flynn was aiming to convey overall. Was she aiming to present marriage as such a destructive force? I’m not married and so my view of the overall affect of Flynn’s work is likely very different from how it might be read by someone who is. However, after finishing the book I believe Gone Girl showed marriage in a blatantly negative light and provokes numerous questions. Is this a cautionary tale? I highly doubt Flynn was trying to imply that all marriages had the potential to turn into the emotional distrust and manipulation she portrayed, but so many of the problems that occur are those faced by couples in day to day life. Does every woman have a bit of Amy in her? And every man a bit of Nick? How often do we mold ourselves to the desires of our significant other and what happens if you put that mask aside?
Throughout the work I found my sympathy switching between Amy and Nick, the victim title never seeming to solely fit one or the other. There’s no denying that by the end the psychological stability of one (if not both) characters is seriously in question, and yet the other character seems to come to grudgingly accept the position they have been placed in, intimidated and terrified into submission. In Nick we see the typical stereotype of a man who has lost interest, the efforts he made to impress and woo at the beginning of their relationship are no longer worth the effort to make. In Amy there is a woman who painted herself into what men wanted, manipulative and eventually disappointed. It plays out in a marriage that unfortunately mimics many seen today: time degrading patience and anger remaining unvoiced, the ultimate result something likely not wanted by either partner.
With each chapter you are driven to read the next in order to see what new trait or realization or downfall the characters will face. I raced through this book in less than three days (which may be partly due to being between jobs and a renovated apartment, but let’s shove that into the “circumstance” slot), wrapped up in the story line and yet, almost oddly uncomfortable with what was unfolding before me. Sitting here writing this, I am still somewhat unsure how to explain where I stand, and maybe that is the best indication of how a book has moved you: when you need time to think about the lasting affect a book has. It is an astounding read and Flynn deserves full acknowledgement for the intricate story she has weaved, but be aware, your own morals might be tested and you may find yourself questioning your own relationship ideals.
Devon – athousandbooklife
Other books by Gillian Flynn: Sharp Objects (2007) and Dark Places (2010)