Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn

Nothing I want to say about Gone Girl can be said without spoilers, so on the off chance that anybody reading this post has been slower than me to read Gone Girl, and cares about spoilers, begone with you! (Instead of reading this post, you should go read Ana’s post about books where The Twist dominates conversations about the book. Not apropos of anything! Not being pointed! Just an interesting read!)

Gone Girl

Okay! If you didn’t want to be spoiled, I hope you have stopped reading! I am going to say spoilers now!

Now I’m going to say them.

Right now.

(I’m doing additional precautions because I was out having yogurt with my parents, and my mother got upset with me for revealing something that you find out about the middle of Gone Girl. Sorry, Mumsy! But to be fair, you always want me to tell you what happens in books. I had no way of knowing that this one was different.)

When you know from the beginning — as I did — that Amy is a crazy person who’s framing her husband for her own murder as revenge for his cheating on her, the first half of Gone Girl reads like a “Can This Marriage Be Saved” column for sociopaths. In alternating chapters, Nick tells us about being the husband of a woman who has disappeared, and Amy tells us about meeting Nick and falling in love with him. Knowing that Amy is deliberately crafting the persona of a woman who gradually comes to fear her husband made this a particular joy to read. It’s so fun to see all the traps that have been laid for Nick, how guilty he looks, even to the reader, even though we’re inside his head. It’s like a British sitcom — but creepy — where the situation spirals further and further out of control with every passing minute, until we get a reset (the sitcom episode ends; Amy comes back).

In the second half of the book, we have the fun of seeing Amy get herself into difficulties and then wriggle back out of them. I’ve seen some reviews of Gone Girl that complained about the apparent inconsistency of Amy being set up as this disturbingly brilliant woman and then getting screwed over by a couple of low-level criminals in the middle of the book. I had just the opposite reaction: it seemed completely in keeping with the character. Amy’s a planner, not an improviser. She’s a master of the long con, taking established patterns and turning them to her advantage, but she’s terrible at thinking fast on her feet.

(Full disclosure: I overidentified with that aspect of Amy’s character. I am excellent at planning schemes, but I, too, do not do well with sudden bumps in the road.)

And sure, Amy’s a cartoonish villain. But she’s not cartoonish because she’s too smart; she’s cartoonish because she’s evil, and her sociopathy is crazy fun to read about. I didn’t care about the improbability of the twists and turns, or about the too-pat psychology of a girl whose parents fictionalized her life growing up to have no clear identity of her own. It was just too fun a book to worry about any of that.

I’m kinda psyched for this movie. At first I thought they were casting Ben Affleck just cause he’s famous, but I now realize that it is a piece of absolutely perfect casting. If you had asked me, “Who’s that movie star who has a face you want to punch, and like, he’s an Irish working-class kid in the body of a total trust-fund douchebag?” (which is how Nick describes himself), I’d have said, “I dunno, Ben Affleck maybe?” Way to go, casting directors. Way to earn your keep.

  • Yep, Ben Affleck is certainly perfect for this role. I’m looking forward to the movie – it is going to be a ton of fun!

    • Gin Jenny

      I think so too! I wonder what the ending is going to be — Flynn’s said she’s writing a new ending for the movie.

  • Ben Affleck would be a brilliant Nick.

    I liked and disliked Gone Girl, I enjoyed reading Amy’s fake journal, but Nick was just the dullest most uninteresting thing in this book.

    • Gin Jenny

      Nick was dull, but I love a story where someone has done something bad and is going to get caught. Even though Nick didn’t actually kill Amy, the suspense in the story functioned the same way as if he had.

  • YAY!!! ! I am so glad you had the VERY SAME reactions I did! I thought it crazy batshit fun and loved the many twists and turns.
    I am warming up to Affleck as Nick but ADORE the choice for Amy. I think this is one I cast myself in my review post – need to go check. I know we had the discussion in our bookclub anyway.

    • Gin Jenny

      Wow, really? I am so impressed if that’s true — I would never have thought of Rosamund Pike (is that her name?) for Amy! It’s not that I don’t think she’s a good actress, but I’ve just never seen her in a part that demanded much from her.

      • Well, I didn’t actually Cast Pike in the role but I went through the casting nomination process, is what I meant. Pike didn’t have a big role in An Education but she made a big impression.

  • rivercityreading

    This is a fabulous review, and I totally feel the same way. I’ve been wanting to re-read it lately, mostly because I know Flynn is supposed to re-write the ending for the movie (which I’m kind of bummed about, because I’m one of few people who loved the end, but I know that it won’t really work on screen…I just want to see if I can work out something that would be more appropriate).

    • Gin Jenny

      I liked the ending! I’m not so wedded to it that I won’t enjoy a different ending, but I liked it. I thought it was fitting for both of them.

  • I hated this book, but I blame it on knowing far too much going in (I attended book club without having read the whole book). THIS! “When you know from the beginning — as I did — that Amy is a crazy person who’s framing her husband for her own murder as revenge for his cheating on her, the first half of Gone Girl reads like a “Can This Marriage Be Saved” column for sociopaths.” Lordy yes.

    • Gin Jenny

      Aw! Sorry it got spoiled for you! (It did for me too but I wanted it that way.)

  • I’ve been waiting to read the book until after I see the movie because it was shot in my home town, Cape Girardeau. Everybody there was so excited that I’ve heard lots of spoilers already.
    About spoilers in general I say “So what. Big deal.” (in the tone of the alien at the end of Buckaroo Banzai)

    • Gin Jenny

      Aw, how fun! It’s great to see your own familiar locations in movies. They filmed Pitch Perfect at my alma mater, and I got a huge kick out of seeing our natatorium and Greek amphitheater and everything on screen.

  • I didn’t know anything about the twisty thing before I read it (except that there was a twisty thing) and I kind of guessed where it might go but no the evilness! I loved it, and I’m also wondering about the end because I liked the book ending and wonder how the film will differ. I am always trying to make people read this!

  • I also support the casting of Ben Affleck, and I love the trailer. The song choice is perfect. Gives me chills now every time I hear it, which means that song is pretty well ruined for its intended purposes.

    I’m very curious as to how the ending will be changed because I too really liked the ending. It was suitably twisted.

  • The more I think about it, the more supportive I am of Ben Affleck. Like you said, he can do that sort of jack-ass working class dude really well. I think he’s going to be fun.

  • loved the book – it was deliciously twisty and the characters were so over the top. I pictured a Coen movie treatment by the end, like Raising Arizona?

  • aartichapati

    This book creeped me out and gave me the heebie jeebies. But I applaud Gillian Flynn! She said something in an interview once that people are uncomfortable with the idea of violent women and that is why she writes about them, and I think that is cool.

  • I am so looking forward to this movie! I didn’t like any of the characters in this book yet I couldn’t put it down. Have you read any of Flynn’s other books? She tends to write very dark books or at least the two I have read both were. Great review!

  • Riv

    I love your review even if I wasn’t that big of a fan of the book. I totally get the appeal, though. And I thought the same about Amy being tricked – it kinda seemed very obvious it was supposed to show how she’s a great planner and not that great of an improviser.

    I think the book is well written but I personally felt really exhausted because of the amount of twists and turns 🙂

  • aliceburton

    Dude, I think you made Gone Girl more appealing. How very odd.

  • What Alice said. I really did not like this book at all. It felt gimmicky to me. But you’ve made me almost want to reconsider. Almost, but not quite.

  • Lol on that opinion about Ben Affleck. Knowing he’d been cast I really wasn’t keen but with your angle, yes, I can see it. I liked reading your take from the spoiler angle, it makes me want to read it again. (I confess to ‘getting’ that she likely wasn’t dead, but didn’t know more than that, and feel I missed something!)

  • “When you know from the beginning — as I did — that Amy is a crazy person who’s framing her husband for her own murder as revenge for his cheating on her, the first half of Gone Girl reads like a “Can This Marriage Be Saved” column for sociopaths.” THIS IS WHY I LOVE YOU!

  • It’s okay, I’m over it! And I might still read this; you make it sound so good. Can This Marriage Be Saved, Sociopath Edition! LOVE IT.

    (P.S., I’ve been thinking a lot about reading the end (before one reads the middle) and I have come to the most utterly mundane conclusion about why I read the end. It’s because I am curious. Really, really curious; so curious I can’t enjoy the book if I don’t know what is going to happen. I want to make it sound grand but I really think it is just the stuff that killed the cat.)