July 17, 2016

Book: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 2:23 pm

imageThe hallmark of any good author is the ability to get into the minds of characters and see the world and the unfolding events as that particular character would see them. All successful authors do it to a fairly large extent. It is easier to do in a first person account but in a story where multiple people tell the tale, it is harder to do. And this technique has been used to devastating effect by William Faulkner in The Sound and The Fury (even if the story is hugely confusing). But Stephen King consistently does it very well. And now I find that Gillian Flynn can do it very well. This book is absorbing, and one of the reasons is this.


The story is great too.


Nick Dunne married Amy Elliot but now there are difficulties in the marriage. He moves to a poky little town (Carthage, Missouri) from New York  to be helpful to his ailing parents and also borrows money from her to start a bar with the sister, Go (Yes, the sister’s nickname). The bar does not do well. He is an author who lost his job with the journalistic recession due to internet/ blogs etc undermining the business model of the press.


On the Fifth Anniversary of their wedding Amy is pissed off because Nick does not notice or remember anything important.


She talks about meeting him in that party – in her diary. Nick finds out that day from the neighbour that the door is open to his house and the cat was wandering outside. He goes home. Finds the glass coffee table broken to shards and the furniture upturned. Amy is ‘gone’.


As I said at the beginning, Gillian has the power to delve into the psyche of a carefree, calm Nick and to the boisterous, irrepressible Amy, brimming with fresh ideas every minute – from a rich family who marries for love and finds out that her dream life is not so dreamy after all. The narrations of each ring true to the character and she has a very nice way of describing that immerses you into the story.


Nick behaves very strangely for a husband who had just lost his wife, but explains it based on his upbringing. He does not inform his in laws, knows nothing about his wife’s friends or even her blood group. Even earlier, he stood up his wife in a party when all the other husbands came for their wives. She seemsedunconcerned.


Officers Velasquez and Riorden are puzzled by his behaviour. To top it all off, in the TV interveiw when Amy’s father is tearful, begging her to come back, he smiles.


The detectives discover the treasure hunt Amy has set up for him. Meanwhile Nick smiles a smarmy smile again for a selfie with a woman he does not even like. Behaving more and more like a husband untroubled by the death of his wife. Police naturally zoom in on his as the prime suspect.


Meanwhile we understand how Amy sees him as insensitive and how he does not even tell major events in his family like his dad getting Alzheimers to her. When his mom gets terminal cancer he decides that they have to move to Missouri without even a token consultation with Amy, which riles her up.


Nick comes across as a jerk even before he reveals that he has an affair with a very young student of his, Andie.


He lies a lot and gets caught out every time. His neighbour announces that Amy was pregnant in front of the whole crowd. The detectives find evidence of blood – lots of it – which was (forensically) clumsily cleaned up in a room; he lies about who did not want kids to his in laws. Even Go, his alter ego and twin sister who stood by him all this time, is finally pissed off.


Then comes the real Amy story. She explains how she staged the murder scene and disappeared, how she was aware of Nick cheating on her, everything.  Amazing twist (that is, if you have not seen the movie already).


Amy’s trip into a remote cabin to hide and her being cheated out of all the money by two of the neighbours who she thought were friends is well told. What comes out strongly is how he decides to give an interview off the cuff to an unknown reporter who was sympathetic and starts turning public opinion in his favour. His engaging a tough lawyer called Tanner is well told and the strategy by Tanner when he figures out that Nick has pissed off his mistress, his in laws and found all the things he is supposed to have bought out of his credit card mysteriously stored in the outhouse of his sister’s house, his strategy to get Nick out of the deep hole he is in is also interesting.


Amy’s brilliant planning comes to fore. In fact, even the clues she left have two meanings, one referring to his infidelity with Andie (Amy even knows the places he took Amy to in order to be private and make love) and also using inside jokes so that what he said would make no sense to the cops. In addition, even the Punch and Judy dolls are there to establish a murder weapon (missing stick at the bottom)


When Amy returns after being in the clutches of Desi to whom she had gone for help and realized that she will be a prisoner, the story gets even more interesting with Nick fearing Amy and Amy playing cat and mouse games, checkmating Nick’s every move and making him realize that there is no way out. Even the legal genius Tanner seems stumped.



The final confrontation between Amy and Nick are interestingly told. I do not remember the story moving forward after Amy’s return in the movie but a lot happens in the book, with Nick trying desperately to get Amy her just punishment through a million ways. Frankly, I do not know if I prefer the movie or the book ending. Interesting. Lovely. Well told.




– Krishna


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