Published: 2013 (paperback), Phoenix, 466 pages
Setting the scene
On the fifth July 2012, Nick and Amy Dunne reach their fifth wedding anniversary. But things are different this year.
Curbing from their usual dish of flown-in lobsters, the Dunnes delve into a dish best served cold. Very cold.
Their small town in Missouri is about to be hit with the news that Amy – beautiful, smart, cool – has gone. Disappeared the morning of the anniversary. As the investigation begins, the finger points towards the husband, Nick, whose demeanour is awkward and all-too casual.
A smarmy smile. A disposable phone. A dodgy alibi. A lot of lies… Nick is nothing but suspicious.
So, the case seems obvious enough. Right?
This is not a story of a happy, conventional marriage. It is a dissection of marriage at its worst, at a point where Nick and Amy are left wondering who they are, and who each other are. The climatic point comes when we realise what kind of people they actually are.
The novel has an interesting structure. It is non-linear and written from the first-person narrative of Nick and Amy, the chapters alternating between Nick’s narrative and Amy’s. Many of Amy’s chapters are written in the form of diary entries which go back years, giving the reader insight into the development, and deterioration, of the couple’s relationship. Her chapters sometimes include a question in the form of a personality quiz to reflect her previous work (is the answer a, b, c?) which initially comes across as a bit try-hard but soon grows on you.
Nick’s chapters are written in present time, beginning ‘The Day Of’ Amy’s disappearance. The first-person narrative creates a very conversational tone to the novel, it is relaxed and personal and explains the heavy use of offensive language throughout- these are ordinary people after all.
The plot is smart (Flynn is good at inserting cruel wit into the novel), shocking and utterly gripping. The novel is split into three parts and the tension is ramped up in the second part with a climatic twist. The reader soon recognises that the narrative is unreliable, in particular as we realise Nick is withholding information; Flynn cleverly reserves or prescribes doses of critical information throughout, keeping the reader guessing and on tenterhooks.
Would I recommend this book? Yes
This is a brilliantly crafted psychological thriller, exploring two complex personalities and their union in a disharmonious marriage.
The ending is ominous and unadorned. It leaves you slightly dissatisfied, yet it is in-fitting with the dark and twisted story and suits the characters disturbed personalities.
It doesn’t surprise me that this novel has received such critical acclaim and I would recommend it to anyone as a quick, gripping read (I’ve been careful not to give away spoilers!).
Adaptation to film
It has been revealed that David Fincher (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Social Network, Fight Club) is to direct a film adaptation of Gone Girl.
Ben Affleck has been cast as Nick and as he is an actor familiar to gritty, complex roles (I particularly liked him as Tony Mendez in Argo) I think this is brilliant casting. There are several possibilities for the casting of Amy.
I only hope the adaptation does justice to the novel.