Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s widely popular thriller, suggests people can never really truly know one another.Nick and Amy Dunne are made for each other, but theirs is not a fairy tale romance. Rather, their relationship tells the story of a marriage’s descent into utter depravity. The story serves as an extreme example of how the personality we show others is often a fabrication. In this case, the identity struggle faced by husband and wife brings dire consequences.
The chapters are told in first person and alternate back and forth between the voice of husband and wife. Nick begins telling the story on the day his wife disappeared, and Amy’s voice is heard in the form of diary entries dating back seven years. The first part of the book brings the reader a delicious sense of taking sides. At first, Nick seems like the charming one, but then Amy’s cloying attitude gives way to an endearing naivety.
The question of whether or not Nick murdered his wife drives the story forward. Clue after clue point in his direction. He just seems to be getting deeper and deeper in trouble, while Amy seems like a saint. After all, she is the Amazing Amy in the famous series of children’s books that made her parents millionaires. Much to her chagrin, her parents are soul mates. Suffice to say, Amy has some serious issues.
The couple’s backstory involves facing extreme stress after losing their New York City magazine writing jobs. To make matters worse, Amy’s parents come knocking and inform them the house they gifted to the couple is mortgaged to the hilt. They then ask her to return the $600,000 in her trust fund. Nick and Amy use the remaining $80,000 to move back to Nick’s hometown in Missouri so he can take care of his ailing parents and also open a bar with his sister Margo. All this makes Amazing Amy very happy.
Just when the author gets the reader to the point where they can feel a smidgen of empathy for both characters, Nick drops a bombshell. Part two then continues from Amy’s point of view starting with the day she goes missing, and Nick’s story continues seven days into the search. The question lingers: Who killed Amy?
Some of the plot points later in the book seem overly coincidental. Plus, by the time the reader gets to the end of the book, it seems like the story just stops. All in all, the book effectively captures the voice of two completely despicable characters, which is likely why this fairly engaging read also has quite a few negative reviews.
In a word, Amy Dunne is a psycho bitch. But then again, Nick Dunne is a spineless bastard. So in that regard, this pair of some of the most unlikable characters to grace a book’s pages, get just the ending they deserve. Namely, a pathetic unhappily ever after.
Have you read Gone Girl? What’s your take on less than likable characters in fiction?
You can connect with Gillian Flynn on her website.
For more insight, read my Book Review Criteria.
Image: Dead Roses by George Hodan. Please share responsibly. Jeri Walker, 2013.
Sometimes I find it fun to just utterly hate the protaganists of a story. As long as that is the direction the story plays out anyway. It can be that fundamental need to either despise or love the characters that can keep you coming back for more.
Reminds me of larger than life individuals like Evil Keneivel or Muhammad Ali. You either hated them or loved them but very few people felt blah about them. You watched them perform because you either wanted to see them win or see them fail miserably, there was never an inbetween.
Jon, I’d definitely say this is one of the few books I’ve read where the main characters have next to no redeeming qualities… none, nada, zilch, zippo. And that is exactly what keep me reading 😉
Wow… the couple you love to hate. Am I right? Sheepers…. 🙂
Hate is too kind a word for this literary duo!
That sounds like a very interesting read. I can just imagine the back and forth voice of each of the characters and how this could be a compelling if not a complicated read. It made me curious in a creepy sort of way if you know what I mean. 🙂
The author definitely has a knack for capturing creepiness. The first half is a bit more compelling than the second, in my opinion, but it’s well worth the read.
I found it interesting that the couple has an “pathetic unhappily ever after” ending, which is different from the way that most books end but in reality sometimes life has an pathetic unhappy ending. We would all like an happily ever after but many times it doesn’t work out that way. I may give this book a read just because it doesn’t have the happily ever after ending. I like happily ever after ending but sometimes life ends shitty and that worth reading also.
Another unhappily ending book is Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain. It’s one of my all time favorites.
I have a copy of Gone Girl languishing on my shelf. I really do need to get around to reading it!
No, don’t read Gone Girl. It’s awful IMHO. Read The Girl on the Train. Much better! What did I hate about Gone Girl? The false coincidences that treat readers like morons, the awful ending that doesn’t make sense and the simplistic writing. Sorry guys.
Joan, I would agree The Girl on the Train is a better book, but it still had a measure of coincidence and the end was a bit predictable… though most of the lead-up was pretty impressive for readers who don’t mind a lot of internal first-person narrative thoughts.
Thanks for sharing the review Jeri. I can’t say that I’ll be reading it any time soon but that’s only because I honestly am too swamped right now with projects to read any fiction. You certainly did make it sound interesting!
Wow. I know you said you enjoyed the book, but I can’t imagine caring about these people enough to want to figure out what happened. I would at least need to see a progression from decent person to douche bag to keep reading.
Adrienne: Sometimes it’s just kinda refreshing to read a book with such despicable characters. Mind you, I wouldn’t want to read a steady string of books like Gone Girl but reading it was a good study in writing characters readers won’t be able to love.
I have this book on my to-read list too! Now I’m going to have to read it just to see if the characters really are as despicable as you describe! 🙂
Claire: Let me know your thoughts after you read it.
It’s interesting how they both get an unhappy ending. I tend not to read that many books. I usually just read articles or textbook stuff. Hopefully I will see a book I like on your blog!
Wow! This sounds like a fun read. When characters are real enough that they annoy you, that’s the sign of a good book. I remember reading “Gone With The Wind” and wanting to slap Scarlett silly. But I didn’t stop reading – I couldn’t!
Krystyna: Me too! I loved Gone with the Wind as well. Rhett and Scarlett are just do despicable, but the reader is drawn to their relationship like an onlooker is drawn to a train wreck. It’s next to impossible to look away.
Yeah, I agree, both characters were real assholes–but
I truly enjoyed the book.
But I LOooooooooooVED “Sharp Objects.”
How about you? x
Kim, I’ve not read Sharp Objects, but I plan to get to it sometime this year.
Totally agree with this take – particularly that the book just stops. I was fascinated by the characters and loved the twist – but then was frustrated by the end because it didn’t feel like an end, it felt as though the author stopped typing one day and sent it off the the publishers. I’m okay with an unhappy ending, but I needed some kind of… catharsis, some fundamental change, some… something!
Claire, to just have a book end definitely leaves a reader unfulfilled, yet on some level, I suppose it fits the story since both characters are merely going on with their less than spectacular lives.
I loved this book and I read it in two days. I liked that the characters where not liked. The novel was Different and refreshing from other books I have read. I wonder if they left it open ended for a sequel. I would like to know what happens after the last page. Great review!
Crystal, I’ve heard that Flynn doesn’t intend there to be sequel to the book, but you never know… especially since the movie was so popular. In a way, the open ending leaves it up to the reader to imagine what comes next. Perhaps they end up poisoning each other 😉