Released in June of 2012, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl reached critical acclaim and a number one spot on the New York Times Best Seller List within its first few months on shelves. The book comes as Flynn’s third, and nearly two million copies were printed within the first year of publication. Critics were widely impressed with the way that the novel seemed to transcend the lines of a given genre; Gone Girl is a twisted amalgamation of romance, crime, and thrill set to Flynn’s carefully emotional prose. The New Yorker described the book as “full of texture and detail, both forensic and psychological.”
The novel follows two central protagonists: Nick Dunne and his wife Amy Elliott-Dunne. As the novel begins, Nick’s first-person narration immediately gives the reader some insight into the conflict in the book; the reader is swept into the morning of Nick and Amy’s anniversary, and Nick sheepishly explains that he and his wife had been unable to communicate effectively for the last several years. However, the novel takes a turn for the worse when Nick comes home to find that Amy is missing, and his house has been ruined. Nick’s story alternates chapter with entries from Amy’s diary in which she explains the arch of their marriage: mutual attraction, excited lovers, devoted spouses, and estranged would-be divorcees.
As the first part of the book progresses, things begin to look increasingly grim for Amy; while initially her disappearance was ruled as a kidnapping, it soon turns to foul play. More and more, the clues begin to point towards Nick as a murderer, and his testimony in his part of the narrative becomes increasingly clouded. However, it soon becomes clear that Amy has managed to frame Nick for her murder, and the conflict becomes a battle of wits to prove that Amy has set Nick up. In the second part of the book, readers earn some insight into Amy’s process as she switches from journal entries to personal narrative, and her evil genius becomes one of the most compelling points of the book.
The craft of Gone Girl lies in the contradicting stories of the two narrators; Flynn has managed to create a story where the reader can get the backbone of the events, but what’s true and false is made murky by how much they contradict one another. There’s an overarching cycle: the police present evidence, Nick refutes the evidence, and Amy explains what she wanted the evidence to look like. The author hasn’t abused one unreliable narrator; she’s created a story that relies on the faults of both.
Flynn also sold herself in the ability to distinguish the voices of Nick and Amy. Throughout the entire novel, Amy’s voice manages to shift perfectly to her actions; she’s innocent and overwhelmed while she’s falling for Nick, a woman scorned as their marriage dissolves, and a cunning sociopath when she frames him for the murder. Meanwhile, Nick presents himself alternately as the victim and the martyr as Amy’s careful plan unfolds before police. The author has managed to make her characters intriguing and distinct amidst her storyline, and she allows the faultiness of both protagonists to take center stage.
Gone Girl is remarkably well put together; it’s original, it’s pressing, and it’s absolutely thrilling to know what is going through the minds of Nick and Amy as the two try to condemn one another. There’s a sense of combativeness that drives the book, and the story is almost chronically well thought out.