Published: June, 2012 (Crown)
Format: Kindle E-Book
Recommended By: Trish at Love, Laughter and a Touch of Insanity, Jennifer at The Relentless Reader, and Wendy at Musings of a Bookish Kitty, and it just seems to be one of those popular novels lots of people are talking about.
I Categorized It As: Mystery/Thriller & Popular Fiction
My Rating: 3.5/5 (Thumbs Up)
Thirty-something-year-old Amy Elliott Dunne disappears on her fifth wedding anniversary, and her husband Nick falls under suspicion. They’ve both been down on their luck. Unemployed from their jobs in the publishing industry, they were uprooted from their life in New York City when Nick’s mom was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. Now Amy is missing, and an investigation is underway. Complications ensue.
The story is told, in alternating chapters, from Nick’s and Amy’s perspectives. Nick immediately comes across as the quintessential unreliable narrator. And Amy’s voice seems a bit too cute, perky, and ingratiating. So I soon wondered about her reliability as well. Hmm … 🙂
I had serious doubts about this novel, going into it. First I’m a bit skeptical of popular fiction that seems to be getting a lot of hype. It’s not that I’m a literary snob — I love twaddle. 🙂 It’s just that when I open myself up to trendy popular fiction, occasionally very bad things happen. Like that time I read Twilight.
Furthermore it soon became evident that this book “broke my rules” in terms of my liking a novel. There were virtually no likeable characters. I felt little emotional connection to anyone in the story. It’s a slickly plotted thriller that relies on withholding information from readers and strewing misleading clues. In short, it’s the kind of book I “should” have hated, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is deftly plotted and suspenseful — it’s definitely a page turner. And the writing is witty, humorous, smart, and often darkly hilarious.
Another thing I enjoyed was how the novel dipped into this odd dark, surreal world. A former thriving mega mall has become a dangerous place where destitute laid-off factory workers travel in packs, almost like feral dogs. Very strange. I hope the film adaptation captures this dark, off-beat aspect of Gillian Flynn’s story. And speaking of films, Gone Girl has plenty of movie references. This novel is likely to appeal to film geeks.
The only reason this isn’t a 4- or 4.5-star novel for me is that I disliked the ending. To be fair, in a story like this, readers are expecting to be surprised by the ending, and that was hard to do. But the ending made me groan and shake my head. Of course others might react completely differently. By the way …
I feel deeply sorry for Baby Dunne. Talk about being born to one of the sickest, most dysfunctional couples in the known world!
END OF SPOILER
The Cinematic Angle: It looks like David Fincher (Fight Club, The Social Network) will be directing a film adaptation. Rosamund Pike (Pride and Prejudice, An Education) has been cast as Amy. I think she’s a gifted actress; she can do justice to this complicated character. And while I am not a fan of Ben Affleck as an actor, I can definitely imagine him as the charming, passive aggressive Nick, whose laid back approach to life camouflages his deep rooted issues with women. I’m guessing this film will be well worth a trip to the theater, though it might not be a great date movie. 🙂
Question: If you’ve read this novel, what is your reaction? Did you like the ending? (Please clearly mark comments with spoilers).
(On Going From Being a Journalist to Bar Owner) The once plentiful herds of magazine writers would continue to be culled— by the Internet, by the recession, by the American public, who would rather watch TV or play video games or electronically inform friends that, like, rain sucks! But there’s no app for a bourbon buzz on a warm day in a cool, dark bar. The world will always want a drink. (p. 8)
My dad was a man of infinite varieties of bitterness, rage, distaste. In my lifelong struggle to avoid becoming him, I’d developed an inability to demonstrate much negative emotion at all. It was another thing that made me seem like a dick— my stomach could be all oiled eels , and you would get nothing from my face and less from my words. It was a constant problem: too much control or no control at all.
He never beat her, but his pure, inarticulate fury would fill the house for days, weeks, at a time, making the air humid, hard to breathe, my father stalking around with his lower jaw jutting out, giving him the look of a wounded, vengeful boxer, grinding his teeth so loud you could hear it across the room. Throwing things near her but not exactly at her. I’m sure he told himself: I never hit her. I’m sure because of this technicality he never saw himself as an abuser. But he turned our family life into an endless road trip with bad directions and a rage-clenched driver, a vacation that never got a chance to be fun. Don’t make me turn this car around. Please, really, turn it around. (p. 60)
I don’t know that we are actually human at this point, those of us who are like most of us, who grew up with TV and movies and now the Internet. If we are betrayed , we know the words to say; when a loved one dies, we know the words to say. If we want to play the stud or the smart -ass or the fool, we know the words to say. We are all working from the same dog-eared script. It’s a very difficult era in which to be a person, just a real, actual person, instead of a collection of personality traits selected from an endless Automat of characters. And if all of us are play-acting, there can be no such thing as a soul mate, because we don’t have genuine souls. (p. 73).
I wanted her to read my mind so I didn’t have to stoop to the womanly art of articulation. (p. 133)
pool. Change of venue doesn’t mean anything anymore— twenty-four-hour cable, Internet, the whole world is your venue. (p. 210)
else. I’d fallen in love with Amy because I was the ultimate Nick with her. Loving her made me superhuman, it made me feel alive. At her easiest, she was hard, because her brain was always working, working, working— I had to exert myself just to keep pace with her. I’d spend an hour crafting a casual e-mail to her, I became a student of arcana so I could keep her interested: the Lake poets, the code duello, the French Revolution. Her mind was both wide and deep, and I got smarter being with her. And more considerate, and more active, and more alive, and almost electric, because for Amy, love was like drugs or booze or porn: There was no plateau. Each exposure needed to be more intense than the last to achieve the same result. Amy made me believe I was exceptional, that I was up to her level of play. That was both our making and undoing. Because I couldn’t handle the demands of greatness. I began craving ease and average-ness, and I hated myself for it, and ultimately, I realized, I punished her for it. I turned her into the brittle, prickly thing she became. I had pretended to be one kind of man and revealed myself to be quite another. Worse, I convinced myself our tragedy was entirely her making. I spent years working myself into the very thing I swore she was: a righteous ball of hate. (p. 214)
(On Girls Molding Themselves to Appeal to Guys) I waited patiently—years—for the pendulum to swing the other way, for men to start reading Jane Austen, learn how to knit, pretend to love cosmos, organize scrapbook parties, and make out with each other while we leer. And then we’d say, Yeah, he’s a Cool Guy. But it never happened. (p. 223)
… lies— from simplistic child’s fibs to elaborate Rube Goldbergian contraptions.
Money problems, check. Pregnant wife, check. Girlfriend, check . It’s a murderer’s triumvirate. (p. 269)
(On Film Geeks) I weep during Godfather II. Every time.” He coughed after a swallow. Seemed like a moment to loosen him up. “Fredo?” I asked. “Fredo, man, yeah. Poor Fredo.” “Stepped over.” Most men have sports as the lingua-franca of dudes. This was the film-geek equivalent to discussing some great play in a famous football game. We both knew the line, and the fact that we both knew it eliminated a good day’s worth of are we copacetic small talk. (p. 276)