My sister and I have very different reading tastes. While she worships at the altar of chick-lit (Sophie Kinsella, Harriet Evans and so on), I prefer the likes of Game Of Thrones. So when she urged me, endlessly, to read Gone Girl, I wasn’t convinced. Eventually her whining wore me down and I picked up the book – distinctive with its black and neon-orange cover – and boy, am I glad I did.
Starting on the fifth wedding anniversary of Nick and Amy Dunne, Gone Girl works hard to make their seemingly-rosy marriage fall apart hard. And fast. Whilst the pair are seemingly living in their dream home, the reality is that they have relocated to Nick’s hometown as he has been made redundant from his reporting job in New York; reliant on Amy’s savings, they have headed home to try a different way of life.
On the day of the wedding anniversary, Nick returns home from a day of work at his bar (the creatively named The Bar) to find there has been a break-in at his home. There’s evidence of a tussle, there’s blood on the floor and, more pressingly, Amy has disappeared.
And there begins a game of smoke and mirrors as the narrative switches between Nick in the present and past journal entries from Amy, both of which provide us with differing views of the two characters. Amy presents herself as a loving wife who tries to be there for an increasingly surly and distant Nick, while he remembers himself in a far more positive light while portraying her as cold and unreasonable. We’re left trying to decide who to believe and whether Nick, who seems increasingly guilty as he fails to show any emotion on the public stage after Amy’s disappearance, could actually have murdered her and tried to elaborately cover up the crime.
The book presents marriage in a dark light, and after the honeymoon period is over, asks the question of how are you supposed to stay with the same person for the rest of your life. Amy questions how it is fair that before you’re married you only present the best of yourself in an attempt to wow your partner, yet once you are actually married this illusion comes crashing down and your shortcomings are revealed.
Amy feels marriage should be the best side out throughout, and is disgusted by the attempts of girls to play up to the ‘cool girl’ image of being agreeable to all the things men want them to be. It does make you stop and think – is your partner actually who you think they are?
The criminal genius behind the major, jaw-droppingly brilliant twist in the plot is almost unbelievable in its sheer audacity. Flynn has created characters so authentic that we forget we are reading fiction and instead feel horror and mounting disbelief that something so insane could work so convincingly.
Is married life as bleak as it’s portrayed here? Well, if I’m certain of one thing, it’s this – pretty much anyone who reads it can take the comfort of knowing it would be nigh on impossible for their own matrimony to reach the standards of the Dunnes.
By Peter Byrne
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is variable to buy here, RRP £7.99