Book Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
On Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary, Nick comes home from working at the bar he co-owns with his sister to find his wife gone. The door is wide open, furniture is overturned, and the police say there is evidence that blood was cleaned up from the floor of the kitchen. Eyes slowly start to turn toward Nick as the cause of her disappearance, while Nick slowly starts to wonder just how well he really knows his wife.
I’d been wanting to read this since it first came out, but when the previews for the movie came out, I knew I also wanted to see the movie, and I just had to read the book first. Because one should always read the book first. A friend head me talking about it and offered to loan me her copy, and I flew through the book in just a couple of days. Even though I had guessed whodunit before I even started to read it, I was still swept up in a heart-racing read.
There have been many reviews of Gone Girl, so I am going to try to focus my review in on why I personally loved it, and also address a couple of the controversies about the book. Any spoilers will be marked and covered toward the end of the review. Please note that this review is entirely about the book and does not address the movie at all.
The tone of the book sucked me in from the beginning. How the book alternates between Nick’s current life and Amy’s diary of the early years of their relationship clearly showed that the relationship started out strong and fell apart, and I wanted to see how something so romantic could have gone so awry. Amy’s diary entries simultaneously sound feminine and realistic. She swears to the same extent that my friends and I do, and I loved seeing that in romantic, feminine diary entries. Nick’s portions, in contrast, perfectly demonstrated the measured response to a disappearance that could easily happen if a relationship was on the rocks a bit at the time. Nick’s reactions felt very realistic to me, and I appreciated it.
Even though I predicted the whodunit, I still found the end of the book to be thrilling, as exactly how it happened was not something I was able to predict.
If you don’t want any spoilers and just want to know why you should read the book, let me just say that anyone who has been in a long-term relationship will find the complex relationship between Nick and Amy frightening and chilling and will be left giving their partner side-eye periodically throughout the book. If you like the idea of a book that makes you freaked out at the thought of how truly awry a relationship can go, then you will enjoy this thriller.
On to the spoilers.
This book has been accused of misogyny for three reasons. Nick’s internal dialogue, the character of Amy, and the fact that Amy falsely accuses an ex-boyfriend of rape. I did not find this book to be misogynistic at all, and I will now address each of these points.
Nick clearly struggles with how he relates to women due to the fact that his dad is a misogynistic bastard. It is realistic for a good person to struggle with bad internal dialogue due to hearing such dialogue from a parent. This is a very real thing that happens, and that people go to therapy for. The very fact that Nick fights against this internal dialogue shows that he knows that it’s wrong and is trying to win out over it. Just because one character has misogynistic internal dialogue does not make an entire book misogynistic nor does it make that character misogynistic. It just makes the book realistic. In fact, I find the fact that Nick ultimately defeats his internal misogynistic dialogue by realizing that it’s ok to hate women who are actually horrible but not all women to be really progressive. Some women are horrible people. Nick learns to turn his internal “women are bitches” dialogue into “Amy is a bitch,” and I think that’s awesome. Now, this point is related to the next point, the character of Amy.
There is at least one strain of feminism that thinks that it’s anti-woman to ever portray any women as bad or evil. There is also the strain of feminism that just says men and women are equal and should be treated equally. I am a member of the latter portion. It is equally harmful to never want to admit to women’s capability for evil as it is to say all women are bad or all women are childlike or etc… There are bad women in the world. There are evil women in the world. Women are not automatically nurturing, women are not automatically good at mothering, women are not automatically goddesses. Women are capable of the entire spectrum of evil to good, just like men are. It is unrealistic to act like women are incapable of evil, when we in fact are. This is why I find the portrayal of Amy as a narcissistic sociopath to be awesome. Because there are women just like her out there in the world. I was continually reminded of one I have known personally while I was reading the depiction of Amy. The patriarchy hurts men and women, and one way that it does so is with the assumption that women are incapable of evil. Nick and Amy’s other victims are unable to get people to believe them about Amy because Amy is able to externally project the virginal good girl image that the patriarchy expects of her. They don’t expect her to be evil. She appears to be a card-carrying, patriarchy-approved cool girl, therefore she is not evil and Nick and the others are delusional. It’s an eloquent depiction of how the patriarchy can hurt men, and I think that a lot of people are misinterpreting that a misogynistic slant.
Finally, the false rape accusation. Yes, it is extremely unlikely to happen. (An analysis in 2010 of 10 years of rape allegations found that 5.9% were able to proven to be false and 35.3% were proven to be true. The remaining 58.8% fell into a gray area of not being proven either way. Source) However, this means that false allegations of rape do indeed happen. 5.9% is not zero, and this isn’t even taking into account the gray cases that couldn’t be proven either way. Just because we have a problem with rape in this country and with rape culture does not mean that every accusation of rape is actually true. Just as not all men are rapists, not all women are truth-tellers. And let’s not forget that men can be raped, and women can be falsely accused of rape as well. Amy’s false rape accusation also fits well within her character development. As a teenager, she falsely accused a friend of stalking her. Then she accuses this man she dated in her 20s of raping her. Then she frames her husband for her murder. It’s a clear downward spiral, and the false rape accusation, complete with faking restraint marks on her arm, is a realistic warm-up to her insane attempt at framing her husband for her own murder. It fits within the character. It is not a malicious, useless, throwaway plot point. It fits who Amy is, and real life statistics support that it could indeed happen.
All of these aspects of Amy and Nick and Amy’s relationship are part of what made me love the book. I am tired in thrillers of so often seeing only men as the sociopathic evil. I have known women to be sociopaths in real life and in the news, and I like seeing that represented in a thriller. I also appreciate the fact that Nick is by no stretch of the imagination an innocent golden boy. He has some nasty internal thoughts, and he was cheating on Amy. And yet I was still able to feel sympathy for the cheating bastard because he gets so twisted up in Amy’s web. It takes some really talented writing to get me to sympathize with a cheater at all, so well done, Gillian Flynn.
Finally, some people really don’t like the end of the book. They wanted Amy to get caught or someone to die or something. I thought the ending of the book was the most chilling of all. Nick is unable to find out a way to escape Amy, so he rationalizes out their relationship to himself (she makes me try harder to be a better person or face her wrath), and ultimately chooses to stay in the incredibly abusive relationship for the sake of their child when he finds out she was pregnant. It is realistic that Nick is concerned that if he divorces her he won’t be able to prove anything, she may falsely accuse him of things, and he won’t end up able to see his child. This is something people on both ends of divorced worry about, and Nick has proof that Amy is unafraid to fake major crimes just to get even with him. It is so much more chilling to think of Nick being trapped in this toxic relationship, justifying it to himself along the way, in an attempt to protect their child. Bone. Chilling. Because it could, can, and does happen.
Overall, the book is an excellent depiction of how the patriarchy hurts men as well as women, depicts a chilling female sociopath, and manages to be thrilling even if you are able to predict the twist.
Recommended to thriller fans looking for something different but don’t be surprised if you end up giving your significant other funny looks or asking them reassurance seeking questions for a few days.
5 out of 5 stars