|It is July, nice and warm in North Carthage, Missouri. Nick and Amy Dunne are about to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary, complete with the usual trepidation from Nick. It has been Amy’s tradition to present Nick with the first of a series of clues related to supposedly romantic moments in their marriage. When Nick eventually follows the clues he will find a present from his bride.
Nick has begun to dread this game because he usually doesn’t remember the occasion which inspired the clue. Amy gets angry with him and the happy day is ruined. This year is slightly different. The first clue is easily found but Amy has disappeared. Her parents are alerted, the police are called, and Nick begins to realize how Scott Peterson must have felt. Nick becomes the prime focus of the police investigation, and evidence damaging to Nick continues to turn up.
Nick knows he is innocent. He also knows his wife. As he analyzes the clues he believes that Amy has orchestrated the whole thing. Because she is meticulous he realizes that she will not make a mistake and he will be accused of killing her, despite the fact that no body has been found.
The first part of the narrative is told in alternating chapters from the point of view of Nick and then Amy, whose narrative consists of a diary that has been written over the course of their marriage. Obviously both Nick and Amy present evidence slanted in their favor so it is not clear to the reader where the truth actually lies.
The second part of the novel provides narrative from the couple in alternating chapters again. The reader gets a much different idea of the personality of Nick and Amy….prompting an immediate reassessment of where the truth actually lies in the relationship. This time Amy speaks directly to the reader rather than through entries in a diary. The cracks in the marriage begin to surface, while the true personality of each spouse becomes murkier. Whether or not theirs is a failed marriage about to happen or one that will be saved at the last moment is yet to be revealed.
Gillian Flynn has proved herself to be a master of the psychological or psychopathological thriller. She reveals just enough about each character to convince her reader that he thinks he knows how the character will react in a given situation, but when said situation actually occurs the character shows himself to be quite another person. Amy especially is a chameleon. Her diary portrays her in one light, but at the next glimpse, she is someone else entirely. Nick is a bit more stereotypical doing the usual male things, though he obviously knows better. He is probably right in his assessment of his wife’s agenda after five years though he doesn’t show much talent for rectifying a bad situation.
The biggest impact of Gone Girl is gained through Flynn’s uncanny ability to convince her readers that A is true only to reveal that it is actually B instead. You may not like Amy very much but you have to give the woman credit for using her brain to get what she wants or thinks she wants. One can empathize with Nick, but he puts into action some plans that he should know will not work well. The ancillary players in the form of Nick’s sister and Amy’s parents provide their own cautionary tale for decisive action without much thought.
Though this novel is character driven, it reads like a thriller. The characters, especially Amy are so unpredictable you can’t wait to see what she will do or say next.
The ending is especially entertaining. One can easily imagine what is coming next until the final page. Then it is evident that anything can happen.