I’ve been putting off writing this review because I’m not sure what to say. Probably, this is partly because (other than my recent dalliance with Sherlock Holmes) I don’t read much crime fiction so I’m not used to having to be so careful not to spoil the book for other readers. Obviously I try not to give away significant plot developments in any review but with crime fiction, those twists are often the essence of the book, meaning it’s hard to explore the other aspects without mentioning them.
This is particularly true with Gillain’s Flynn’s Gone Girl – the entire second half of the book is off-limits for a spoiler-free review – but I’ll do my best. As it’s been on the bestseller lists for a while now, most people probably know that it’s about the mysterious disappearance of Nick Dunne’s wife (Amy) from their home in Carthage, Missouri…except it isn’t. What it’s really about is the complex, disintegrating relationship between Nick and Amy and their less than healthy relationships with their respective families. Narrated alternately by Amy (though her diary entries from the day they met) and Nick (from the day of her disappearance), this is crime fiction in which the crime itself seems initially to be the subplot. It quickly becomes clear that neither account is completely accurate and both Nick and Amy keep secrets from each other and from us, but I wasn’t prepared for the major twist at the beginning of the second part.
I enjoyed this book because it is about relationships rather than police procedure or grisly detail (which can be interesting but aren’t enough in their own right to hook me). It incorporates both those elements, particularly in the second half, but by this time I knew enough about the characters to care about their fates. Like Nick on the treasure hunts that Amy creates for each wedding anniversary, I slowly followed the clues that revealed as much about the state of their marriage as about the eventual ‘prize’. (Talking of prizes, I think the novel is original and well-written enough to deserve its place on the longlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction but I’m not surprised that it didn’t make the shortlist.)
The ending seems to have caused something of a stir and has apparently inspired fanfiction writers to produce their own ‘more satisfying’ conclusion. Personally I liked it; given the nature of the characters, any other ending wouldn’t have rung true and being morally uncomfortable doesn’t make it bad. Admittedly it does leave a rather obvious opportunity for a sequel, but I wouldn’t mind reading that too…