In my last review of Lars Kepler’s The Nightmare, I said that it was not the best thriller I had read this month. That is because Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl is the best thriller I have read this month. In fact, it may even be the best thriller I have ever read, and way up there on my list of favourite books. I wanted to go ahead and say that right at the outset, so that even if you read no further you are armed with a decent recommendation. I say unto you, go and buy it. Beg, borrow or steal it. Exchange an unwanted present for it. Heck, exchange a wanted present for it. However you get hold of a copy, just read it. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.
If I have not yet lost you, onwards!
Gone Girl is the story of Nick and Amy Dunne, a couple whose marriage is past the stage of going stale for a number of reasons. The seven year itch has, for them, come far too early. So when, on the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy goes missing, Nick is naturally the prime suspect. However, as with any example of the genre, nothing is as it first appears.
The novel is written in the first person, told alternately from Nick and Amy’s points of view. The latter is provided in the form of diary entries; a very clever plot device that allows Flynn to chart the downfall of the Dunne’s relationship from before they met to the present day. The real achievements here, however, are the passages that follow Nick. He is what my GCSE English lessons would render an unreliable narrator of the absolute shrewdest kind. The reader, far from being Nick’s trusted confidante, is often as clueless about his true character as the police investigating him. One gets the impression that Flynn is having a good old chuckle at our bewilderment. Suffice to say, I was so caught up in deciphering the truth for the lies that I completely missed the twist until it slapped me in the face. And that slap really, really stung.
The prose itself makes punchy use of free indirect discourse in a big way. It keeps an even pace that somehow clocks just below ‘too fast’ so that I found myself finishing it in about a week (which, believe me, is no mean feat when working around a fourteen month old). The characters besides Nick and Amy are well-rounded, believable individuals and all seemed necessary. I have read novels before that throw extra characters into the mix just for the sake of it, but here everybody had a role to play and this usually involved revealing more about the Dunnes.
My singular qualm with Gone Girl was the ending. I wanted things to be wrapped up nicely: ‘the good to end happily and the bad unhappily’. In reality, of course, things are more often than not far more ambiguous and complicated than that and I suppose this is exactly Flynn’s message. I feel this is a book that I will be pondering for a long time to come, and each time I think of the ending I become just a little less resentful.
Needless to say, Gone Girl is a very impressive piece of fiction. It is cleverly crafted and makes fresh a familiar story. You will find yourself re-evaluating your moral compass again and again as your loyalties continually shift. Go with it. To leave that kind of impression is a very rare thing and one to be sought out at all costs.