The very first paragraph of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl is a shock. “When I think of my wife, I always think of her head”, says Nick Dunne, “…Like a shiny, hard corn kernel or a riverbed fossil. She had what the Victorians would call a finely shaped head. You could imagine the skull quite easily. I’d know her head anywhere. And what’s inside it.”
Nick is speaking on the day of his fifth wedding anniversary. His beautiful wife Amy has gone missing, and it’s quickly clear that their marriage has been less than perfect. “What are you thinking, Amy?” he wonders. “How are you feeling?... What have we done to each other? What will we do?”
Gone Girl unravels the story behind Amy’s disappearance, setting out events through the alternating perspectives of the unhappy couple. Is Nick an innocent husband caught up in events beyond his control, or are his disposable cell phone and repeated lies to the police hiding a secret? Do Amy’s detailed diary entries offer any clues to what’s happened or is the truth somewhat more complicated? And crucially, can anyone ever really claim to know the person they’re married to?
Flynn’s novel is a tightly plotted and multi-layered psychological thriller, and the stakes are raised with every new revelation. Unexpectedly, Nick and Amy’s own versions of events do not exonerate them. Rather, each shift of focus breeds suspicion and self-incrimination as they independently chart the disintegration of their marriage. Rarely have I ever spent time with characters I dislike quite so much, yet I found it impossible to step away from them.
Gone Girl manipulates the reader from start to finish. Each development casts previous understanding in a new light until the possible interpretations of the story seem limitless. Who – if anyone – is telling the truth?
This novel is disturbing, brilliant and unforgettable, and the way Flynn expertly plays her readers sits perfectly with the plot. Like many though, I had difficulties with the ending. It’s not wrong, it’s not unsatisfying, it’s just… sudden. There’s been speculation that this is because a sequel is planned, although Flynn denies it. If true, that’s a relief. Gone Girl is so compelling that it would be hard not to read it, and there are very many things I would rather do than spend more time in the company of Nick and Amy Dunne. Chilling.