I’ll give some pretext as to why I checked this book out, because over the past few years, I’ve barely read any “new” books, unless it’s by Stephen King. If you didn’t know already, I’m a big Nine Inch Nails/Trent Reznor fan, and so I’ve been an avid listener of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ collaborative soundtracks for David Fincher’s films over the past few years (I still haven’t seen “The Social Network” but pretty familiar with the OST!). So when it was announced that the two musicians would be writing music for another film – yet another adaptation of a novel – I was eager to hear the soundtrack, see the film and read the book (just like I did with the Millenium series). I still haven’t seen the film, but I was happy enough in spending time with the book and an author I’m unfamiliar with… and it was totally worth it.
“Gone Girl” is a hybrid between thriller, crime, drama and – in my opinion – horror. The book is sectioned into three parts: Boy Loses Girl, Boy Meets Girl, Boy Gets Girl Back (Or Vice Versa). Throughout the book, we are told two sides to a story from two characters through alternating diary entries and internal monologues; the characters being Nick Dunne and Amy Dunne. The whole storytelling part of it is partly what makes this novel – frankly – genius.
In Boy Loses Girl, Amy goes missing under suspicious circumstances (she disappears when Nick tends to a bar he owns with his sister and the home shows signs of a struggle) and so we’re given two points of view from two different time periods. Nick is in the present and so we experience his initial panic and search for Amy, but as certain clues come to light, he becomes an extremely suspicious character. At the same time, we find out through Amy’s diary how the couple first met and how they progressed to marriage and then how losing their jobs (both were writers for magazines) affects their relationship for the worst. Even though Nick is honest to the reader (but not to other characters, especially the police), you can’t help but feel really judgemental of him and wonder what exactly he says is truth, or what he’s leaving out – especially considering he counts lies he’s told, but he jumps from number to number, so you never know what he’s said is a lie.
However, in Boy Meets Girl, everything is flipped over, nothing is what it seemed. This is where I can’t really go into the story any more without ruining it for you, but you are caught completely off-track. Not only is it a twist in plotline, but it’s emotionally deviant in terms of everything you felt and everything you’ve considered so far. Granted, twists do that anyway, but personally, I thought Flynn pulled it off at a spectacular level. The thing she manages from here on out is to challenge the reader and make you question whether you were fair or judgemental; both independently and because of society/mob mentality. You can’t help but feel a little embarrassed of yourself and some of the characters in the story. Anyway, things in the first part are explained and you find yourself rooting for Nick, hoping he can work his ever-growing problem out. As natural as it is in the majority of novels, he does, even if only by the skin of his fingertips…
BUT… and it’s a big but: Boy Gets Girl Back (Or Vice Versa).
You can interpret that title in a number of ways once you finish the book, because this section is the most cruel, devastating and crushing of the whole novel. There is yet another twist and it’s one you’d wish didn’t happen, especially right towards the end. It reminded me of the first time I saw the end of “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” with McMurphy’s situation – in no way related plot-wise but just that the character you invest all your hope and support in loses, and loses without a fight, which feels like the most brutal punishment for anyone, and is exactly what’s intended for Nick. The resigned defeat.
Basically, “Gone Girl” is an extremely clever yet emotionally playful novel, tapping into issues of psychology and social prejudice/sympathy for certain people in crime, especially depending on race/gender/class/etc. Flynn challenges certain trains of thought and points out how, despite how much as a society we like to throw the word ‘humanity around, we are still very primal in instinct and emotion. Even if you think that you’re exempt from that accusation, you might be surprised, because I thought I was too. An especially worthwhile read for people with interests in psychology, crime and social behaviours. Oh, and it gets very dark at times.