Let me start by telling you: this book is messed up. The characters are psycho and the whole situation is insane. And I knew it! I knew what happens because I wiki’ed it last year when I heard it was a book about marriage (not exactly a relevant topic for me). I knew (generally) what happens in each section but I still was slapped in the face with suspense, astonishment, and repulsion in the end.
Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl is about Nick and Amy Dunne, the ideal good-looking couple whose long-term relationship went horribly awry. After unfortunate circumstances economically (they lose their jobs as writers in NY) and emotionally (Nick’s mother passes away), the two move to Missouri. One day, Nick returns home to find Amy missing. The story is told from both points of views and is separated into three sections. The first section is told through Nick’s POV and Amy’s old diary entries. The second and third sections are both told in first-person by Nick and Amy. It is meticulously written with nitty-gritty details that all end up connecting together as a good suspense novel should. Flynn conjures up a horrific and unsettling story about marriage, men and women, manipulation, and murder.
We are one long frightening climax.
I love Gone Girl. I love the darkness that oozes out of Nick and Amy’s toxic relationship and the unreserved ramifications that sprout from it. I love how Flynn can make me laugh aloud while I’m reading this book on the bus (“Here’s some wood for ya!”) and then how immediately my eyebrows can shoot up in panic at the next page. Gone Girl has everything I ask for in a novel: real characters with fears and ugliness, a bitter dose of reality, clever story telling, and a plot that’s deeper and more abstract than I first expect it to be.
The ‘Real’ You
And the Cool Girls are even more pathetic: They’re not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they’re pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be.
A major theme in this novel is the concept of a “real” self. Amy admits that she pretended to be the Cool Girl when she first fell in love with Nick. A Cool Girl is a “hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding.”
Amy doesn’t actually love hot dogs or video games. She is not even anywhere remotely as ‘chill’ as she would like to be seen as. Amy argues that Cool girls – all girls – are only putting on a facade in order to be loved.
Amy also takes on another identity while she goes missing- Diary Amy. Diary Amy is likable, devoted to her husband, and brewed up after a year of careful planning and cross-references in order to appeal to the public.
Most importantly, Amy clings onto the identity of Amazing Amy, the protagonist from the children’s book series her parents became rich off of. Amazing Amy is perfect in every way and never makes a wrong decision. Growing up as Amazing Amy caused a very serious inferiority complex.
Love makes you want to be a better man. But maybe love, real love, also gives you permission to just be the man you are.
Nick is not much different. He is described to be a Mama’s boy and a ladies’ man. Readers discover Nick is in an affair and is not very bothered by the fact that his wife has gone missing. The end of section one flashes a warning sign to readers that nobody is as perfect as they would like to be.
It’s a very difficult era in which to be a person, just a real, actual person, instead of a collection of personality traits selected from an endless Automat of characters.
And if all of us are play-acting, there can be no such thing as a soul mate, because we don’t have genuine souls.
Masculinity and Femininity
Following the Cool Girl debate and infidelity, Flynn explores the common characteristics of masculinity and femininity. Nick represents the opposite of a “man”. He is a cheater, a coward, unemployed and unable to care for his wife. This infuriates Amy, as he is “not the man she deserves”. However, when she runs off to her ex-boyfriend, Denis, she is even more disgusted. Denis is wealthy, possessive and overly attached. He is described to be a white knight, one who will rescue the damsel in distress by locking her up in a tower in order to keep her “safe”.
Give me a man with a little fight in him, a man who calls me on my bullshit. (But who also kind of likes my bullshit.)
Amy also represents a feminist ideal. She believes her independence and pride has been taken away by Nick’s lack of love and affair. She detests Andie, Nick’s mistress, not only because of the affair, but also because she believes Andie is submissive (Able Andie- able to perform sexual favors at any time). Nick also admits that Andie is his escape from Amy’s heavy dissatisfaction towards his imperfections because Andie is accepting and makes him feel like “a big man”. Amy is very much against being submissive, a cheerleader, a trophy wife and wishes for a superior position- one in which she is to be showered with affection. However, not too much as seen in Denis’s case.
Amy has a constant need to be right. She always needs to win or provide “justice” or have the last word.
There’s a difference between really loving someone and loving the idea of her.
One of the major forms of manipulation in Amy’s master plan to frame Nick for murder is the anniversary treasure hunt. Not only does she maintain her Diary Amy identity, she is also able to pull the heartstrings of Nick through sweet notes and praises. As “an extra fuck-you”, it also exposes Nick’s affair because all the treasure hunt locations are also places where he has slept with Andie. The final location reveals her stand and prediction to what will happen to Nick- to be arrested and sentenced to the death penalty.
Amy is psycho. I really think she is. Who the hell plans to frame their spouse for their own death for a year? And she leaves no room for mistakes! It is crazy the extreme lengths she goes to “teach a lesson”. Amy is a master manipulator, a genius puppeteer, if you must. She tells us at the beginning that she wants to be considered as a writer, but she has displayed on many victims that she far exceeds that goal. She does not simply write a good story or manuscript… she writes a life- one that is fully believable with backup plans for failed backup plans. Amy is brilliant, frightening and so, so interesting to read about. At the same time, I am appalled because she can get away with anything.
Nick and Amy stay together in the end. I know it does not seem to make sense. He cheated! She actually murders someone! He knows! How can you live with a murderer?
You are a man. You are an average, lazy, boring, cowardly, woman-fearing man. Without me, that’s what you would have kept on being, ad nauseam. But I made you into something. You were the best man you’ve ever been with me. And you know it. The only time in your life you’ve ever liked yourself was pretending to be someone I might like.
Amy tells Nick that she made him a man. He is nothing without her and nobody will ever amount to her. That is partly true, because how would you ever be able to forget having a wife like Amy? However, Nick’s realization of Amy’s existence to him is also kind of sick. In conclusion, they are both very very sick.
In the end, it seems like Nick and Amy are both content with living day-to-day pretending to be their fake selves. Of course, having a baby is the solution to any marriage problem. Nick will now play the role of the husband who screwed up but will now make up for it for the rest of his life by loving his wife unconditionally. Amy will play the role of the wife who was neglected, kidnapped and raped, but still loves her husband and is still otherwise, perfect. Every morning they will wake up and be these people and in certain moments, they will get so into their parts that sometimes they actually forget. For those moments, they will feel like they love each other and that the other person is wonderful, charming, and perfect.
And then they will remember that they’ve seen their true selves with all their ugliness, fear, paranoia, desperation, lust, and sins.
I am a great husband because I am very afraid she may kill me.
The movie was much gorier than what I had seen in my mind when I read the book. Still a good movie adaptation, though!