On the surface Gone Girl reads like a whodunit thriller, and it makes a great summer read--but it’s also a literary novel in disguise with its imagery of a landscape of an economic wasteland, the characters’ moral bankruptcy, and its themes of identity and marriage. It’s been the book of the summer for me.
On their fifth anniversary, Nick Dunne comes home, and his wife Amy is gone. The initial crime scene: an open door, the ottoman turned over, broken glass, and the iron left on. Instead of beginning with “boy meets girl,” the plot starts with “boy loses girl.” Detectives arrive and the media circus begins.
Told in alternating he said/she said chapters, we learn the back story of Nick and Amy. Gilliam Flynn throws her readers red herrings with sneaky abandon. I found myself shifting loyalties back and forth from Team Amy to Team Nick and then being horrified and guiltily fascinated with both of them.
Nick is smart and good-looking with a touch of the golden boy about him. After growing up in Missouri in a Huckleberry Finn-like childhood with his twin Margo, he put himself through college and was working as a journalist for a magazine in New York City. Amy grew up with two psychologist parents who have written a series of children’s books with a character called Amazing Amy, based on their daughter, which has made them millions. Amy does not need to work but uses her psychology degree to write personality quizzes for magazines.
After the initial “ambrosian” honeymoon phase, their marriage disintegrates with the economic downturn. Both lose their jobs in his and hers layoffs. They move back to Missouri and rent in a foreclosed, mostly empty subdivision. The lying and cheating begin, and their marriage becomes a Punch and Judy show. Amazing Amy becomes Psychotic Amy. Gillian Flynn is a master of the unreliable narrator—you don’t know whom to trust.
As Amy and Nick deceive each other, we watch the American dream unraveling. These two characters truly know each other, and they sadly deserve each other.