John Hanlon Reviews



Posted in: Book Reviews  |  By: John Hanlon  |  October 1st, 2014

Gone Girl, cure which has now been adapted into a feature film (arriving in theaters this Friday), this is one of the most exciting and energetic books I’ve ever read. The story opens with a simplistic premise (a man’s wife is kidnapped and he’s the prime suspect) and then, pharm through a variety of brilliant twists and turns becomes something more thoughtful and riveting than one should usually expect from such a book.

The novel opens calmly enough from the perspective of Nick Dunne, the novel’s main character. “When I think of my wife, I always think of her head” is the opening line and introduces Nick and his relationship with his sharp-minded and personality quiz-loving wife, Amy. In its opening chapters, author Gillian Flynn transitions from telling the story from Nick’s perspective (detailing his life before her disappearance and when she goes missing) and then flips to Amy’s diary entries from the period before her disappearance (including an entry written right after the two first met).

Each chapter digs deeper into their relationship and their skewed feelings for one another.

In one particularly thoughtful diary entry, Amy  notes that she never wanted to be the clingy girlfriend/wife that men mock behind their backs. She wanted to be different. She didn’t want Nick to feel like he needed to attend every happy hour and event with her. She was better than that.  Nick, on the other hand, argues that who he was — his short-lived career in the city and his close relationship with his sister– never satisfied his wife and she was always punishing him for one thing or another.  (“One of us was always angry,” he notes. “Usually Amy”)

From its beginning, the story is an exciting page turner but when the mystery of Amy’s disappearance starts to unravel, Flynn does the impossible: she re-energizes the already well-told story with a few ingenious and unpredictable twists and turns.

What Flynn is a master of is slowly introducing her characters so that we begin to have relationships with them. We’re not thrust into the hectic immediacy of their lives but are slowly invited into their complicated and duplicitous worlds. Just when we feel like we know and understand  someone though, a new situation presents them in a different light. At times Nick comes off as a victim here (his wife was kidnapped after all) but when he’s put in front of the cameras at a press conference,  he can’t help but show off his manipulative tendencies. As Flynn notes, Nick’s appearance at the press conference was going well until “it came, out of nowhere…a killer smile.”

The book’s credit belongs to Flynn, a brilliant young author who knows how to build a narrative one small step at a time. Just when you’ve settled into this story believing you know where it’s going, she twists the characters and the story beats  in a whole new direction. The book’s premise (wife disappears, husband stands as the prime suspect) could’ve easily been used as the basis of a Lifetime movie of the week (I’m sure it has!) with no originality in it. But Flynn trains her keen eyes on this situation and delves into it deeper and more thoughtfully than so many others.

It’s an amazing book and I can’t wait to see it adapted on the big screen.

Grade: A

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