Book Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

When Amy Dunne disappears on the fifth anniversary of her wedding, the resulting investigation quickly uncovers several motives for Nick Dunne to wish his wife out of the way. But as various facets of Nick and Amy’s marriage unfold, it becomes harder and harder to decipher the lies and the truths about the collapse of the marriage and the aftermath of Amy’s disappearance.

Photo: Entertainment Weekly

Gone Girl is a hard book to classify. It has the trappings of a mystery, but the plot itself is wrapped up in the twisted psyches of the two main characters. Though it’s tempting to call the story a thriller, and that’s indeed the genre in which the book is marketed, that doesn’t feel quite right. Gone Girl is a very intimate story that goes so deep into the characters’ heads that you wish it would retreat just a little. Nick and Amy are horrifying- yet to themselves, their actions are the only reasonable ones to take. Because they see themselves as so reasonable, they trick the reader into seeing things from their point of view- not often, but enough to make their story unsettling.

As far as writing goes, this book is a page-turner that stays fairly consistent in tone and diction. But the twists the story takes are often surprising, and their impact is all the more impressive since there’s really only one genuine plot twist, one that occurs less than halfway through. Nick and Amy- and the ugly layers of their personalities- are the driving forces.

The most interesting aspect of this book was the issue of perception and identity, and how the two intermingle in human interaction. Towards the beginning Nick reflects on how the writing world in which he was saturated had made him see everyone in his life as a character and everything in his life as a plot device. While the reflection itself was a bit heavy-handed, in light of the plot, it was a sobering reminder that real life cannot be broken down to fictional tropes. And while most people don’t hide secrets like the ones Nick and Amy conceal, the book forces the reader to accept that people cannot be classified according to expectation.

This makes the ending particularly disturbing, since it does not end in a way that makes the reader feel safe. If anything the story is quite open to the notion that Nick and Amy’s lies and manipulations will continue to hurt people. Since they are two capable and intelligent people, they are more than capable of wrapping others in their mistakes and dragging them down in their own misery.

So if you’re in the mood to put off studying for one last weekend, you could do a lot worse than checking out Gone Girl, which has spent 22 weeks on the New York Times Best Sellers list and does not look to drop any time soon. And since author Gillian Flynn is an alumna of Medill’s graduate program, you can consider reading it a sign of Northwestern pride- which, given our football team’s recent performance, may be very much in demand.

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