Gone Girl — what to make of that then? Crikey!
Gillian Flynn’s much-acclaimed new novel is one of those very rare books that I could not put down.
Actually… I’ve just told you a lie. Misled you. The unreliable critic.
Just like Nick Dunne and Amy Elliott Dunne, the unreliable co-narrators who lead the reader a merry dance throughout 466 pages of this pacey well-plotted and passably believable psychological thriller. In truth, it took me some real effort to progress beyond the first hundred pages. Pages weren’t turning in this ‘page turner’; but ultimately, it hooked me.
It’s a hard book to review without giving too much away. On the surface it’s a War of the Roses sort of affair. But while the interaction between Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner was black comedy to the point of Keystone cops-esque slapstick, Gone Girl is definitely too noir for slapstick; even with Punch and Judy making an appearance.
On his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne, a husband with neither present nor restaurant reservation, comes home to find his beautiful wife, Amy. Gone.
Signs of a struggle, poorly mopped up blood and Nick has no alibi. Soon the cops are looking no further than the husband. And who wouldn’t, reading Amy’s diary entries, interspersed with Nick’s opaquely untrustworthy account of how he handled ‘the day of’ and beyond?
Amy, the only progeny of child psychological parents — Rand and Marybeth — who used her as the ultimate case study for a highly successful series of ‘Amazing Amy’ books, is just too nice. Too normal.
And Nick? Is this dopey, handsome — even foppish — American Hugh Grant-ish sort of bounder, really guilty of murdering his wife?
It’s obvious that things were far well in the Dunne household. First, Amy loses her job penning puzzles for a small, nobody-wants-to-buy recession culled magazine. Then Nick is made redundant from his high circulation cult glossy. But that’s no real big deal, as ‘Amazing Amy’ has a huge trust fund. The thirty silver pieces paid by her parents to assuage their guilt at making their daughter a cash cow.
But when the publisher drops ‘Amazing Amy’ and her parents ask for the trust money back, alarm bells clang. The couple move back to Nick’s hometown of Carthage, Missouri and use what’s left of Amy’s money to buy ‘The Bar’ which Nick runs with his twin sister Go.
And that’s when the cracks become crevices.
“I hoped you liked ‘Diary Amy’. She was meant to be likeable. Meant for someone like you to like her. She’s easy to like.” Really Ms Flynn? Am I alone in resenting… no, really hating being told what I should like, who is easy to like by an author? How very dare you to patronise; to tell me, the reader who has already bought (slightly unwillingly to begin with) into your two unreliable narrators, who I should like.
What I actually liked was the prospect that any one of a number of people that Flynn drops unconvincingly into the frame (so that the dumb schmuck reader won’t be led off the scent leading to the murdering hubbie) might really have killed Amazing Amy.
I’m sorry. I didn’t find Amy in the least easy to like. In fact, I found ‘Amazing Amy’ to be ‘Irritating Amy’, the sort of Stepford Wife that every misogynist dreams of but then finds that her syrupiness is just too choking.
And choking ‘Irritating Amy’ was precisely what I hoped had earned Nick Dunne a one-way trip to Missouri’s Death Row.
Enter Part Two, and the narrative momentum picks up. Just for a minute, I do actually find myself siding (ever so slightly) with Amy. Probably, because she’s not Amy any more. Is she alive or is she dead? Doh! I almost told you.
Is Nick really this stupid? And what about Go? Could she be involved?
And will the cops ever stumble upon anything that isn’t under their noses? Officer Boney (well-named) an Angry Bird sort of woman, and Gilpin — her stereotypical sidekick — only bumble into the blindingly obvious when it is too late.
For sure, it is easy to see why this sinuously plotted novel is flying off the shelves faster than Viagra in the pharmacy of a Saga cruise ship. And why the Mail on Sunday described it as, “… a book you’ll be begging other people to read, just so you can discuss it with them.”
But there’s a certain inevitability as to who is going to have the last word.
Amy, of course.
Or is it Nick?
I wouldn’t want to mislead you, now would I?