Gone Girl is one of those books with quite a buzz about it, aggravated by such things as the sticker on the cover proclaiming it ‘Thriller of the Year!’. A fair few people I know have been reading it over recent days and when a friend urged me to drop everything and read it immediately so that they could release all their pent up feelings about the book, so close to bursting out of them, I thought I’d better not put it off.
It’s no secret that Gone Girl is a thriller with twists. In fact, the blurb declares that one is so twisty that it will make you drop the book in shock. That’s quite a claim and my expectations were appropriately tickled. However, while the existence of twists is no secret, I’m not going to give anything away here about them. As a result, this is not an easy book to review. So, I’ll stick with the bare minimum about the story itself and instead just give you some impressions. This might also serve as some kind of antidote to what I can only call (although I hate the word) hype.
The thriller opens on the fifth anniversary of young married couple Nick and Amy. Recently relocated from NYC to Missouri, due to redundancy and wanting to be closer to ageing parents, all seems well. But when Nick returns home from his new business (a bar called The Bar), he finds devastation – the door wide open, furniture overturned and lots of blood. Amy is gone. So begins the nightmare. Police take over – we learn more and more about both Nick and Amy. Nick himself has a steep learning curve of misery to climb. And all the while, the media looks in, friends and family judge, police needle. Everyone waits for Nick to be arrested, including Nick. We have a task, to try and read the clues that the narrative leads us to, to assess the personalities laid bare or covered up before us. Amy, the Gone Girl, looms above it all.
The first point to raise about Gone Girl is that I could not put it down. Admittedly, I was ill and so could do little else, but the book did the job of keeping me thoroughly entertained while I read it. Once I’d finished it, though, I was relieved it had taken so little of my time.
There was not a twist that surprised me and not a character or consequence that intrigued me. Any potential interest I may have had in the mystery and the central figures was wrecked by the smug laziness of the ending and the implausibility of the relationships – and not just the central relationship. There was no truth below the surface. The knowing cleverness of the plot is matched by the gimmicks in the prose. Repetition, rephrasing, tabloid banter, cliches keep in step with paper thin male and female characters. There are moments here that are utterly unbelievable and preposterous.
The fact that I could not put the book down until it was done is testament to the pace of the story and prose. The words are fired out like bullets. But that does not make Gone Girl a good book. It just makes it addictive. There’s something salacious about it, like reports of dirty neighbours in the gutter press. There was promise to it, the shame is that it didn’t deliver. Incidentally, the friend who wanted me to read it feels exactly the same.