Friday, October 03, 2014
Gillian Flynn's novel Gone Girl is well-known (some would say notorious) as one of the best-selling and celebrated books published in 2012. It was optioned by Oscar-winner Reese Witherspoon soon after its publication and this led to the upcoming film adaptation directed by David Fincher starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike with a screenplay adapted by Flynn herself.
The main reason why Gone Girl is soon to be a "major motion picture" is the astonishingly high quality of the source material. Gone Girl is ostensibly about the disappearance of beautiful, blonde Amy Dunne on the occasion of her 5th wedding anniversary, it is really a chilling dissection of a relationship between two very different individuals in the economic context of the collapse of the American middle class. Amy Dunne is married to Nick Dunne, a journalist who lost his job at a prestigious magazine in New York City and moved the couple to his hometown of North Carthage, Missouri where he used the bulk of the remnants of Amy's trust fund to open a bar (cleverly called "The Bar") with Nick's twin sister Margo. As the only child of psychologist parents who wrote a series of successful child novels about a character named "Amazing Amy," Amy is raised to expect perfection in all things. And, of course, life is far from perfect.
The structure of the book is fiendishly clever. It is told in dueling first-person voices, starting with Nick Dunne in present tense starting with the day that Amy disappears. Soon we start to hear from Amy Dunne, telling her side of the story through diary entries which begin even before Nick and Amy are married and document the deterioration of the relationship over the last five-plus years.
The problem of course, is that, Flynn is deploying one of the trickiest devices in the author's toolbox: the unreliable narrator. Both Nick and Amy are consummate liars, they lie to each other, they put on false appearances for public consumption and, we quickly discover, they lie to the reader as well.
As any aficionado of murder mysteries will tell you, the mantra the police have when a wife disappears is "the husband did it, the husband did it, the husband did it." But Flynn is too clever to go along with that common trope as we find out more and more damaging information about Nick's behavior prior to his wife disappearance (he was having an affair with another woman, he increased the value of her life insurance policy, they were barely speaking to each other). These spoilers are nothing compared to what twists and turns the actual plot of the book puts you through. It literally took my breath away. Yes, it's that good. Let's hope it becomes a heckuva movie!
Title: Gone Girl.
Author: Gillian Flynn.
Paperback: 432 pages.
Date: June 5, 2012.
Read: December 31, 2013.
OVERALL GRADE: A (4.0/4.0).