Sunday Burgs book review
Reviewed by Jennifer Poff Cooper of Christiansburg. She is a graduate student at Hollins University
“Dark” is the word I keep hearing to describe Gillian Flynn’s blockbuster novel, “Gone Girl.” “Daring” is another apt term. People seem to either love its strangeness or be totally unnerved by it. In an interview, Flynn compared her book to the movie “The War of the Roses.”
“Gone Girl” pits spouses against one another and definitely has those black comedy overtones. In the movie, were you Team Kathleen Turner or Team Michael Douglas? Here, are you Team Nick or Team Amy?
The answer depends largely on whose head you are inside of at the time. Flynn does a fantastic job of making the reader privy to both characters’ innermost thoughts, using a conversational tone, while holding back just enough to create whopping suspense. For example, Nick admits to the reader early on that he has lied to the police about his wife’s disappearance – but not what he has lied about. The reader is left to flip back the pages and try to guess.
Amy’s diary and Nick’s monologue are the vehicles keeping the reader apprised of the plot, so there is no reliable narrator. Interestingly, neither main character makes him/herself likeable. Both are miserable spouses. Still, they each have vulnerabilities that peek through. It’s a matter of who the reader finds less appealing at any given moment. And again, that changes as the characters slowly peel back their increasingly troubling layers.
The first half of the book sets up the disappearance of the “Amazing Amy,” so named as she was chronicled in her parents’ series of children’s books. All grown up, Amy married Nick and lived the high life in New York City until both writers lost their jobs in the economic downturn. Nick then dragged Amy back to his hometown in Missouri, with Nick’s very present sickly parents and twin sister. Nick uses the remainder of Amy’s trust fund to buy a bar where he spends the majority of his time. Amy is clearly unhappy, as revealed through her diary, and the marriage suffers. When she goes missing, then, it is a classic case of looking at the grieving husband first.
Clues pile up against Nick, which only makes him defensive and more suspicious. Even his beloved twin Margo begins to have doubts about her brother. Amy’s doting parents arrive on the scene to inject themselves into the fray. These characters, though, are peripheral to Nick and Amy – the dysfunctional couple who cannot seem to live with one another’s flaws but at the same time is totally wrapped up in each other.
Short chapters make the reader want to keep going. Just one more chapter and I’ll have it figured out! Yet the plot twists never end. Flynn’s writing is sharp, with very few wasted words. Occasionally I forgot which chapter I was in, Amy’s or Nick’s – they are both so narcissistic – but generally each character has a clear voice and point of view.
Satire abounds: about the south, about our true crime fascination (with a character clearly modeled after Nancy Grace), about the nature of relationships. Many of Flynn’s satirical and pop culture observations ring true, which grounds the book in a reality not otherwise found in “Gone Girl.”
The cleverest thing about the book, currently no. 2 on the New York Times best seller list, is that the “gotcha” moment occurs halfway through the book. Mystery solved, what could be left? Flynn doesn’t miss a beat and continues to keep the reader enthralled till the end. An end which, by the way, makes the book seem ripe for a sequel.
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