Flynn's 'Gone Girl' will thrill readers to the end

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 10, 2012

“Gone Girl,” by Gillian Flynn. Crown. 432 pp. $25.
By Elizabeth Cook
SALISBURY — For the first 200 pages, “Gone Girl” reads like a sharply written marital saga. United bliss deteriorates into aloof antipathy. Murder is in the air.
Then comes a pivotal line on page 219 — sorry, don’t want to spoil it for you — and Gillian Flynn’s latest novel enters what feels like a new dimension.
Flynn, author of “Sharp Objects” and “Dark Places,” is known for her clever, dark suspense thrillers. This one is something more.
Nick and Amy Dunne have arrived at their fifth anniversary with a marriage that’s DOA. After passionate beginnings amid the glamor of New York City, the pair slam into reality. Nick loses his hip magazine job, one of legions of writers sideswiped into the digital gutter. As for uppercrust Amy, her parents drain her trust fund after realizing their storybook lifestyle has outspent the success of their once-popular children’s book series, “Amazing Amy.”
Yes, that’s “Amazing Amy,” a character named for their only child and, despite their denials, written as a slightly better Amy who makes wiser choices at pivotal moments of her life — a new form of passive-aggressive parenting.
Who wouldn’t turn out a little twisted after years of that?
The book begins with Nick musing on the fine shape of Amy’s head.
“I picture opening her skull, unspooling her brain and sifting through it, trying to catch and pin down her thoughts. What are you thinking, Amy?”
Amy has disappeared, and the narrative alternates between Nick’s morbid reflections and passages from Amy’s rosy diary — her own story of new love, discovery, settling down and, eventually, disenchantment.
As Amy chronicles the marriage’s deterioration and Nick provides a counterpoint, the reader begins to see that Nick may be right to wonder what’s going on in his wife’s pretty head. It’s something more than disappointment over the step down to living in Nick’s small Missouri hometown.
Without giving away too much, let’s just say events gradually expose another side to this young woman’s character — the particleboard beneath her smiling veneer. And it is fascinating.
Nick wisely comments on marriage and the human condition, a condition shaped by the countless stories we have all seen on TV, movies and the Internet.
“We are all working from the same dog-eared script,” Nick observes. “… I would have done anything to feel real again.”
Hence, he is Suspect Number One-and-Only when Amy disappears, and her parents staunchly defend him — for a while. Alas, in the pursuit of feeling real, Nick has indeed followed the usual, bored-husband script.
But Amy is writing afresh, and for some time it’s not clear who has the stronger killer instinct.
No. 1 on more than one bestseller list, “Gone Girl” has been described as “deliciously sinister,” “devishly dark” and “unputdownable.” Some say it is Flynn’s breakthrough novel, quite a feat for someone whose earlier books already made the New York Times’ bestseller list.
20th Century Fox has acquired the book for screen adaptation. Reese Witherspoon is leading the production and appears destined for the lead role, with Flynn writing the screenplay. This should be good.
Book clubs looking for more than titillating shades of gray will find great conversation fodder in “Gone Girl.” It is indeed “unputdownable.”
Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, has posted an online chat with Gillian at