Sometimes it’s hard to let go of your own expectations as a reader. Gillian Flynn’s novel is a tense, tightly coiled thriller; I had some trouble relaxing and letting the story unfold on its own. I’m a reader who likes to peek ahead, even if it’s just scanning a dozen lines down when something interesting happens in the top third of the page. And “Gone Girl” is as dangerous a novel as its two main characters, Amy Elliott and Nick Dunne.
The pair are married, and on their fifth anniversary, Amy goes missing in a presumably violent way. The book ping-pongs its point of view, alternating between Nick’s present-day narration (beginning “The Morning Of”) and Amy’s diary from the first time the couple met. It’s somewhat common to refer to form or structure as “daring,” but Flynn’s choices do actually dare the reader to spin theories, engage fears and suspicions, and of course, read on.
Halfway through the novel, I felt unshakable dread. Was I enjoying it? I couldn’t relax enough to say for sure. I was caught up in the story, but I was also afraid of where it would end. I really didn’t want the climax to be a gruesome flashback of Nick bashing his wife’s head in.
And of course, I’m not going to spoil. Each reader can make her own choice about what literature she chooses to engage. This book is dazzling. Amy and Nick are fascinating, gruesome, ticking, beguiling, hateful, brilliant characters, and they’re backed up by some lovely, rounded secondary characters in Boney, Go and Andie.
“Gone Girl” is a novel about marriage, power, dynamics, misogyny, roles in relationships, play-acting, true crime, the media–it darts so quickly through the plot, and places itself with such immediately believable scene work that it finds resonance everywhere. I’m recommending it to my mother and my best friend, and I’m eager to hear what others think of it. The fun part is seeing what other people take away from novels, especially ones as obviously well-crafted as “Gone Girl.”