My rating: 2 of 5 stars
When I started reading Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, I thought it would be similar to Tana French’s Broken Harbour – an exploration of a marriage that is starting to buckle under the pressures of the economic recession, followed by tragedy. In Broken Harbour, the tragedy is murder; in Gone Girl, a sudden disappearance, even a possible abduction.
Nick Dunne is a journalist living blissfully in New York with his beautiful wife, Amy. They seem to have it all: a warm place, cozy jobs, love. Then they lose their jobs during the recession, and are forced to move to Nick’s dying hometown in Missouri. Amy is not happy there. One day, a neighbor calls Nick at the bar where he works and says his door is wide open. He goes home and finds signs of struggle inside their home. Amy is gone.
I came into the story thinking it would be a slow, quiet dissection of a failing marriage. Listen to this: I peeked over the side to see if she was in our rowboat, where I had found her one day, tethered to the dock, rocking in the water, her face to the sun, eyes closed, and as I’d peered down into the dazzling reflections of the river, at her beautiful, still face, she’d suddenly opened her blue eyes and said nothing, and I’d said nothing back and gone into the house alone.
But it turned into something sinister – and bizarre. There is the steady accumulation of characters, at times too outlandish to be considered believable: two psychologist parents basing their book series on their only daughter, an uber-rich man who builds a greenhouse filled with nothing but tulips, a woman often described as smelling “vaginal”. Then the twists came, and –
It’s hard to talk about the novel without spoiling the big plot points, but let me just say that Gone Girl could have been great. Could have been. The first half of the book is brilliant. It could have been a commentary on married life, the recession, suburban unhappiness, modern ennui, the danger in the lies we tell each other, but Flynn decided to transport the story into the realm of the truly abnormal and ridiculous. Maybe for the sake of shock value, but it’s not particularly shocking. Once you get over the first big twist, you realize you’ve seen it all before. And it drags on and on, from one over-the-top subplot to another, down to its hateful end, and by then I have stopped caring. It’s not even insightful. I want to know the why, not the how, and the only answer we get to the why is a cop-out.