Enthralling Books: Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

Here's my essay in a series of essays about enthralling books. See all the essays in the Enthralling Book series here. -- Mark

NewImageGone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

This twisted psychological suspense novel had me from the first page and I read it every spare moment I had until I finished it. It begins with a man named Nick's description of his morning on the day of his fifth wedding anniversary. Nick and Amy were once bon vivant magazine writers in New York, but the print media implosion put an end to their fun life, and for a variety of reasons ("Blame the economy, blame bad luck, blame my parents, blame your parents, blame the Internet, blame people who use the Internet") they end up in Carthage, Missouri with Nick running a dive bar (using the remainder of Amy's recently obliterated trustfund) with his sister Margo. Later that day, Amy disappears from their house, leaving behind signs of a struggle. The police, and TV viewers around the country, suspect Nick did it.

The second chapter is from Amy's diary, seven years before her disappearance, in which she giddily describes meeting the handsome and funny Nick at a party in Brooklyn.

The chapters alternate between Nick's account of his life after Amy's disappearance, and Amy's diaries entries leading up to the event. We see a happy relationship deteriorate over time. We also see signs of psychopathy and deceit start creeping in as the story unfolds. Since this is a suspense novel, things aren't necessarily what they seem (or are they?) and there are major twists and surprises along the way.

Even as a straight-ahead thriller, Gillian Flynn's novel succeeds with a tight plot that's rich but easy to follow. What made it extra enjoyable for me is Flynn's dark sense of humor, insight into relationships, cultural observations, and developed characters. As messed up as Flynn's characters are, they are believable, unpredictable (even to themselves) and complex, and that's what keeps things interesting. I've read other reviews of Gone Girl in which readers have complained that Amy and Nick are too unlikable to care about. I disagree. I care about them the same way I care about Breaking Bad's Walter White, Mad Men's Don Draper, and Tony Soprano: pathologically manipulative jerks who reveal a shred of humanity often enough that you can relate to them, especially since we all have some element of a dark side in us.

I also liked Amy’s rant about “cool girls.” Here's an excerpt:

Being the Cool Girl means I am 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. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl. Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time Cool Girl offended me. I used to see men -- friends, coworkers, strangers -- giddy over these awful pretender women, and I’d want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them.”

Flynn's previous novels, Dark Places, and Sharp Objects, are queued up on my reading list.

Buy Gone Girl on Amazon



  1. Lots of folks on Amazon are complaining about an unsatisfying ending. Do you agree? Please don’t post spoilers, I’m deciding whether to read it or not.

    1. The ending of Gone Girl made me want to throw the book across the room. My coworkers didn’t feel the same way. (We work in an independent bookstore, and rare is the book that we ALL read.) 

      I say read it. And if I may suggest, seek out your local independent bookstore (or your local library) to purchase/borrow the book. Amazon algorithms have their place, but there’s nothing like a personal recommendation. And on that note, if you haven’t read Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, I recommend that too. Those are my standout books of the summer. :)

  2. @Rick

    This is a very good book. The ending is not anti-climatic, but it is hard to talk about why it isn’t without ruining the book. Either way stop looking at reviews and read it now.

    You really want to avoid all spoilers.

  3. I read a lot of books. Mostly fiction. Rarely do I get “captivated” by a book. This one caught me and didn’t let go. As for the ending, well, it’s not a Hollywood ending. That means that the ending actually made sense with the rest of the story. I highly recommend this novel.

  4. Who says Cool Girl doesn’t exist? I married her!
    (Of course, we were barely through our wedding reception when she abruptly stopped being Cool Girl. *sigh*)

  5. As one of those socially awkward males who has grown old enough to know I’ll never have a cool girl because they *probably* don’t exist, I’m willing to continue to hold out hope for my younger brothers that they may someday find one.  One Remy Lacroix isn’t enough to satisfy an entire nation of us, much as she leads us to think she’d be willing to try.

    Note to people who want to look her up – Binsearch.info her name, create an nzb, and hand it off to your binary grabber or newsreader.   While that’s running, look her up on xvideos.  Skip all the hardcore; you’ll see enough by accident to understand what she can do.  Listen carefully to all the interviews, especially the epilogue interviews on half the stuff you download from usenet.  Then spend an hour mesmerized by her with a hula hoop.  Then let that spark of hope remain alive, that spark that inspires us to believe that maybe, just maybe, once in every hundred million or so births, a true Cool Girl enters this world.

  6. There are three parts. The first part is amazing. Then the story gets completely ridiculous and unbelievable in the final part but you just hold out hope the author has some kind of ace up her sleeve that will actually make sense in the finale (but that finale never comes). The second part is… it’s not as ridiculous as part three but it’s still flimsy.

    The writing draws you in really really well. You know what, liken it to someone telling you they have to take you to this fireworks show. They tell you all these amazing stories about this show they went to every year and really get you excited to the point where you’re dying to go. Some of the stories sound way too crazy to be real but have just that slight hint of plausibility that keeps you yearning for the show. But you never notice that these stupid stories never involve an actual firework until you get to the show and see that the show is a little kid whipping those popper things at the crowd. You’re completely unimpressed but your friend is still standing there, nudging you and saying, “What did I tell you? Isn’t it great?”


  7. I admit it. I dl’d this last night and read it straight through. It IS compelling. The ending is not all it could be. I’d put the novel on the same approximate par as Donna Tartt’s “The Secret History”–compulsively readable yet utterly ludicrous thriller with a “meh” ending. That being said, there were a few threads left untied that could lead to a sequel. I don’t know whether I’d bother with a sequel were the author to write one.

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