What are you thinking? How are you feeling? Who are you? What have we done to each other? What will we do?
Gone Girl was all the rage in 2012 and continued to be a bestseller well into this year. I wrote my original review back in August of 2012, in which I was very careful not to spoil plot points for potential readers. Since it’s a book with many surprise twists, it’s also a book that you want to reread, just to look for clues you may have missed the first time. Or at least that’s what you want to do if you have a slightly obsessive personality (cough cough). Over a year past my first encounter with Gone Girl, it felt like the perfect time to reread. I will be discussing the entire novel this time around, so if it’s still on your to-read list, go no further!
The greatest advantage of rereading is that you aren’t so focused on plot. If you’re an English nerd like me, you can think about narrative structure and themes. Gone Girl is all about identity. More specifically, the way our identities are shaped with other people’s perceptions in mind. The reader’s opinion of Nick and Amy, the married couple at the center of this thriller, is likely to change drastically from the beginning to the end of the novel. The seismic shift comes when Diary Amy is revealed to be a fraud, but meeting the real Amy also alters our perception of Nick. Although he is a deeply flawed man, he has also spent the last five years married to a sociopath, which should garner some sympathy.
An obvious game to play is looking for moments when Diary Amy tells the truth. When is she voicing an opinion that Real Amy shares? Early on in the diary entries, she says, “Isn’t that the point of every relationship: to be known by someone else, to be understood?” This is certainly what Real Amy wants when she drops her Cool Girl persona and shows Nick her true self. Although the real Amy is a wildly unsympathetic character most of the time, she makes this unnerving statement: “Can you imagine, finally showing your true self to your spouse, your soul mate, and having him not like you?” It’s moments like this that make Gone Girl a powerful character study.
A novel with not one but two unreliable narrators! Two narrators who lie or omit information until the second half of the novel. I often overhear customers’ comments in the bookstore, and unlikable characters is the number one complaint about this book. In my opinion, if you require all your protagonists to be likable, you’re severely limiting your reading experiences. I subscribe to the school of thought that main characters need to be either likable or interesting, but not necessarily both. When I read Gone Girl, I like Diary Amy, and Nick becomes significantly more interesting when Real Amy is revealed. That’s more than enough to keep me reading.
My only complaint about Gone Girl was the ending. A coworker asked what could have possibly been a satisfactory ending, and I quickly responded that I wanted to see Amy get busted. Upon rereading, I was curious to see if the ending would affect me differently. The answer is a little. There are moments throughout the novel when Nick and Amy describe people and situations in remarkably similar ways. As they go through their internal monologues, they also like to imagine how the other one would react to a particular thought. That opinion is sometimes echoed by the other character in later chapters. I can see how Gillian Flynn sets up the idea that they are perversely perfect for each other, but I don’t have to like it.
I’m looking forward to the Gone Girl movie next fall. Ben Affleck doesn’t fit my mental image of Nick, but I don’t mind because I think it’s a good role for him. Who else has read Gone Girl? Did the ending frustrate you as much as me?