Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is a fictional mystery torn from the tabloids. It's the sensational story you try to ignore but can't. Amy was the inspiration for a bestselling children's series, and now she has disappeared on the eve of her fifth anniversary. The media points a finger at her drop-dead-gorgeous husband, Nick. He hadn't even bought her gift, and she had arranged a treasure hunt for him with odd clues.

On the day that Amy vanishes, Nick admits that his beautiful, intelligent wife was unhappy. After losing their jobs, they'd quit trendy Brooklyn to tend to his unwell parents in the midwest. Nick borrowed money from Amy's trust fund to open a bar in his hometown while she moped in their McMansion, pining for the city. His current-day narration alternates with her diary, telling their backstory. Her witty, charming voice is more compelling than his whining denials. Still, you can't help feeling a bit sorry for him. Nick may be a cad, but is he a murderer?

Author Gillian Flynn breaks nearly every rule of narrative fiction, but somehow she gets away with it. Gone Girl has hovered near the top of The New York Times bestseller list since its release in June. The real mystery for me was how did the author do it. Her narrators are unlikable and unreliable, and the plot twists contort and overrun the characters. The ending is absurd. Nonetheless, the reader is gripped.

Gone Girl is not without literary merit. The relationships are well developed and the cultural observations about NYC versus the midwest are hilarious. In many ways, this suspense thriller works best as social satire with the media cast as the number one villain. It is also a comedy of errors. Flynn spotlights the secret jokes, tender moments, irritating habits and infuriating missteps of marriage. She asks, who hasn't, at times, wanted to kill his or her spouse? The resolution was disappointing after all the build up, but it was certainly a quick, fun read.

Disclosure: I picked up this book and put it down in more than one bookstore, underwhelmed by the first chapter and wary of all the popular hype. The hardback cost $25 and my Kindle had died on the beach. On NPR the author cited V.C. Andrews' Flowers in the Attic as her inspiration. Talk about trashy. I bought literary paperbacks that failed to hold my attention under the hot sun. More people recommended Gone Girl to me. Others shook their head. When author Beth Kephart gave it a positive review, I headed to my local bookstore and laid down the cash with few regrets. Gone Girl was just right for the last days of summer.

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@Barrie Summy


Barrie said...

Hi Sarah! I have been dying to read your review of this book. I always love your review, but this time I'd actually read the book and had my own feelings about it.

This sentence of yours summed it up for me: "It's the sensational story you try to ignore, but can't."

I like quirky characters, so I enjoyed that part of the book. Although I wouldn't have minded a little more time with the Nick's sister on the page.

And the ending was absurd. Really absurd.

Sarah Laurence said...

Barrie, good point! Go was a likable character and quite original. I would have liked to have spent a book with her. Thanks for hosting the book club.

Alyson | New England Living said...

I've been reading a ridiculous amount lately, and am always on the hunt for more books. So glad to be back to your book reviews! I think I will read this book, because it's always nice to have a breezy book in between heavier ones.

Elizabeth said...

Actually you make me think I might enjoy this book. I tend to shy away from 'popular' stuff but this sounds fun. Sorry the ending isn't any good.
I do wallow in some highly popular/trashy reads
Valley of the Dolls
Princess Daisy
Nanny Diaries
The Other Side of Midnight
and, best of all Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth

I can't quite bring myself to attempt the Gray thingy.....

ps word verification has tripped me up twice so far.....!

Cat said...

You're spot on about the ending being absurd. I find myself in this mind loop of trying to find him a way out...It keeps you thinking. I'm reading Defending Jacob right now and it's hard to put down. I've had to be really disciplined about getting my work done before picking it up. Have you read it?

Amanda Summer said...

since i read all sorts of stuff i don't have a problem with a sensational/trashy book if it's entertaining. i must admit i'd not heard of this book (must not be paying enough attention to the best seller lists) but when you said the author broke nearly every rule of narrative fiction i figured it would be worth checking out of the library. thanks for yet another great review.

A Cuban In London said...

Been there meself with books that are so hyped up that you need a paper bag in your head to avoid them. I'm glad you liked it. And thanks for the review. I would be inclined to pick it up (and I can hear my wife shouting over my shoulder: "Another book?") but suspense has not been really my kind of genre for many years. Funny that I used to be into Scott Turow.

Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Ellen Booraem said...

Uh-oh, I'm a little worried about that ending. But the book sounds like it's worth a try--love it when authors break the rules! Thanks for hte review, Sarah.

Beth Yarnall said...

I'm curious as well about the author's rule breaking. I love when a book that shouldn't work, somehow does. I'm a bit wary of the absurd ending, but will probably give it a try just to see how she got away with taking writing risks. Thanks for the review.

tina said...

You always write the best reviews and are so honest with them all. Perhaps breaking all literary rules is what is needed to be a best seller today?

Rose said...

Sarah, If I had gotten this book when I first requested it from the library, I might have also written a review of it this month! That would have been fun to compare notes. Of course, since I procrastinated and didn't get a review done at all, I probably would have been a month late even if I had read the book already.

Anyway, the reviews I read online sounded intriguing, but now I wonder. "Unlikeable characters" and an absurd ending don't sound very appealing. But perhaps it will be like "Defending Jacob," which got so much hype also. I didn't particularly like the characters in it either and was really disappointed in the ending, but I was still hooked and couldn't put it down.

I agree with the others--I really appreciate your honest review. I'll let you know when I finally get a copy what I thought of it, too.

troutbirder said...

Anything that links VC Andrews with young adolescent reading leaves me very very cold. Sorry Sarah...

☆sapphire said...


I have read more than 10 books that you recommended and found many of them very interesting. Your reviews have always been insightful and helpful. Hmm. This one is a fictional mystery. Sounds so tempting. I'd like to order it online!!

Donna said...

I enjoyed your review. This book is on my to-read list for this fall since it's a mystery and I especially like reading mysteries in the fall. I've heard lots of good things about the book. I'm disappointed to hear that the ending isn't great but it sounds like it's worth the read anyway. And I didn't know that it has NYC and the Midwest in it. I'll definitely have to read it now! I'll probably check it out from the library rather than buy it.
Thanks! This was really helpful.

Sarah Laurence said...

Alyson, Amanda, Ellen and Beth, I’d be curious to hear what you think of Gone Girl.

Elizabeth, this is in the Nanny Diaries genre. I hate the new word verification on Google. You can ask it to refresh for a new test without losing your comment.

Cat and Rose, another friend recommended Defending Jacob as similar concept but better narrative execution. I should read it, thanks!

ACIL, I don’t read much suspense either.

Tina, good point.

Troutbirder, Gone Girl was written for adults, not adolescents. As was VC Andrews series. What chills me is that the Flowers in the Attic series has been re-released for young adults.

Sapphire, that’s so nice to hear that you’ve read and enjoyed over 10 of my recommendations! This one is decidedly more lowbrow than the others, and it has a lot of American pop culture references (and one to Haruki Murakami) so that might be confusing.

Donna, I’d especially like to hear your reaction as east coaster relocated to the Midwest.