Note: this is a review about the book, not the movie.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is a thriller about a wife gone missing, and a husband who becomes the prime suspect. It is also one of those books that is very difficult to review without tossing out spoilers. So, while I’ll do my best to stay away from the big reveals, I’m not even going to try with the smaller ones. For instance:
Amy, the titular Gone Girl, is a freaking sociopath. She’s batshit crazy. Also, brilliant and cunning. But — don’t forget this — gobsmackingly demented. And Nick – well, Nick tries to present himself as a regular, okay guy. But really, he’s a low-down, no-good, lying, cheating sonuvabitch. In fact, there are almost no appealing characters in the entire novel, except for a police detective, Rhonda Boney, who frustratingly tries to untangle the thin line of truth from the fuzzy yarn ball of lies, and possibly Margo, Nick’s twin sister. Everybody else is different degrees of terrible and horrible. All of them. The novel is just a series of terrible, horrible people, doing terrible, horrible things to each other. For 400 pages!
And it’s wonderful.
The book consists of alternating chapters told by Nick and Amy, and both are unreliable narrators in their own way, with Nick stating outright that his supposed anniversary plans with Amy – dinner at the only fancy place in town, Houston’s – was his “fifth lie to the police. I was just getting started.” And Amy – well, like I said, I don’t want to spoil it too much. But again, she’s a freaking sociopath. So of course she’s an unreliable narrator.
Of course, the plot is terribly convoluted, to the point that it strains credibility at times. But that is actually part of the charm. It crosses over from thriller into farce and back at least a dozen times, stretching and challenging you to pull for these horrible people who have been pushed to their breaking point. And there is enough truth sprinkled amongst the self-centered bullshit (Amy’s “Cool Girl” description is brilliant) that you find yourself nodding along, even as your conscience screams out in anger for doing so.
Now, for a little bit of social commentary. Some people have claimed that the book is misogynistic. I disagree. Some of the characters certainly are, but they are drawn so comically beyond the pale of respectability that no serious person could conceive of the author endorsing the positions (the occasional uncomfortable nod notwithstanding). Still others have claimed the book as feminist, which it is clearly not. If anything, it is a send up of Chic Lit, a takedown of the “strong female lead.” Because yeah, Amy is incredibly strong and cunning and resourceful. But – can I say this enough? – she’s nuts. The only thing “feminist” about this book is that it was written by a woman.
Which, when I think about it, might be the most feminist thing you can say: that a woman can write whatever the hell kinda book she wants. Because it is a really good read. So don’t let the fact that it doesn’t make some deep political statement scare you off. Just let it be the page-turning thriller that it is.