I have absolutely no idea how I feel about Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. This is something of a novelty to me, as I typically have a strong opinion one way or another, but here this is certainly not the case. I even waited several days after finishing it in hopes that I would feel something once the book had been digested – but no. I didn’t love it. I didn’t hate it. It’s just…there. Gone Girl is worth reading, I suppose, but ultimately it is a disappointment as it falls short of its potential. In the end, all of the twists and turns intended to make us ooh and ahh begin to make us groan instead from overuse.
Flynn does have an interesting concept – I’ll give her that. Zoning in on the media’s overwhelming influence on murder/missing person investigations, Gone Girl starts off as a replication of the Scott Peterson case. I was caught up in a severe obsession with Court TV when the Peterson case exploded, but I accept that this was an unusual pastime for a high school student, so I’ll sum it all up for you. Pregnant wife goes missing under suspicious circumstances. “Mourning hubby” isn’t acting quite right. The media latches onto “mourning hubby” and the marriage is revealed to be less than perfect.
That’s essentially where Flynn diverges from the factual case, although other parallels pop up throughout the novel. Nick and Amy seem like the ideal American couple, but as the media scrutiny and the police investigation both intensify, unsavory aspects of the marriage come to light. The relationship is crumbling under the pressure of joint job loss and Nick’s ailing parents. Oh, that and Nick’s ongoing affair with a 23 year old bimbo.
From the start we are carefully groomed to dislike Nick, who comes across as both selfish and callous even when he is narrating (Nick’s narrative is interwoven with entries from Amy’s journal, which details the steady decline of the marriage over the years). However, by the middle of the novel, we are inclined to revise our hatred of Nick as Amy’s true character comes into question.
Although Gone Girl is relatively well-written, it suffers from severely pompous and holier-than-thou language and tone; I can’t decide if this should be credited to the fact that both narrators happen to be pompous, holier-than-thou writers, or that Gillian Flynn is a tad bit arrogant regarding her perceived skills. Whatever the reason, it is annoying and often makes for clunky, cumbersome prose that obstructs the plot.
Gone Girl lacks the steady pace needed for sustained interest. While portions are fascinating and some of the twists are well-conceived and well-executed, other sections drag and seem irrelevant. In the end, it all gets to be too much. Plus, the pivotal twist that the entire novel is hinged on is revealed prematurely, leaving Flynn with too much space to wrap up the loose ends; this definitely accounts for the ridiculous hoops she jumps through as she struggles to reach a lackluster conclusion.