Gillian Flynn serves up a delightfully disgusting dish
With its combination of sharp prose, intriguing characters and a plot that never stops churning, it's easy to see how this crime thriller with a difference has spent a stunning 64 weeks on the New York Times best seller list. Though I don't generally go in for the genre, I tried this book after a recommendation. And once I'd started I practically read it compulsively, at the expense of all pressing and important tasks, until the very last page was turned.
When Amy Dunne disappears on the day of her fifth wedding anniversary her husband, Nick, is subjected to routine questioning. But as the investigation proceeds and evidence mounts up, what started as just necessary procedure begins to take a more serious tone. The one certainty in this increasingly terrible tale is that nothing is ever as it first appears, and probably not as it appears the two or three times after that. American author Gillian Flynn's gift for suspense is wickedly applied throughout the 395 pages so that there can be no such thing as 'just finishing the chapter'.
Alternating between the retrospective of absent Amy's diary entries from the past five years and husband Nick's present perspective, the story unfurls, not chronologically, but in a frustratingly fascinating order so that each chapter seems to turn the last on its head. In her orchestration of this alternately soaring, swooping and swerving score, Flynn is the sort of maestro you want to throttle and hug at the same time.
While the driving, twisting narrative is doubtless one of the book's great strengths, I would argue that it's Flynn's talent for the intricacies of characters and relationships that elevates Gone Girl above your stock-standard example of its genre. As the plot progresses, it is by the strength and realness of her characters that Flynn manages to make the incredible credible time after time.
More than just a pacy and exciting murder mystery, this book is an exploration or modern gender constructs and gender roles within relationships. It also forces readers into pondering those unnerving questions most of us would rather leave alone: how well do we really know those closest to us? Can we be sure that we know what we think we know about them? It's an 'ideas book' bound up in a ball of thrilling yarn.
I must admit the slight disappointment I felt at the story's conclusion; it seemed an unnaturally sudden ending and the characters, who had risen to such heights, fell a little flat for me in this wrap-up. Nevertheless, it is, like everything that came before it, thoroughly unpredictable and that, for a story where possible outcomes seem limited from the start, is an achievement in itself.
And really, whether or not you approve of the ending is immaterial: all the way through the ideas are fresh and the execution enviable, and in a sense the conclusion is perhaps the least important part of this story.
So if you think this book sounds like your thing or if you think it doesn't, give Gone Girl a chance and I challenge you not to like it.