Gone Girl

A synopsis of the Gillian Flynn novel, courtesy of WellRead

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn was released in 2012 and was a New York Times bestseller. The novel uses two overt devices — alternating narrative perspective and the confusion and frustration of two very unreliable narrators. Both the change in viewpoint and the fact we cannot trust the narrators to be telling the truth leads to some mighty plot twists and increasing levels of suspense!

The plot: The story begins on Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Nick returns home to find that Amy is missing and there are signs of a scuffle in the house. There is a pool of blood in the kitchen. Nick’s narrative perspective keeps us in the present, as the police begin their investigation. It becomes apparent that Nick is the prime suspect, as all the forensic evidence points to him. His behaviour doesn’t help and soon even the reader begins to doubt he is telling the truth. Amy Dunne, the central character in the Amazing Amy series of books, tells her side of the story through diary entries. The entries begin by telling the story of the past of the relationship and painting the picture of a controlling husband who is frustrated by his failing career as a writer. She portrays her husband as using her money to save his career and support his family.

As the narratives unwind it soon becomes clear that Amy might not actually be the victim in this story. There are twists and turns, as Nick is sent on an elaborate hunt through the clues left by his wife. As he unravels her plot, he manages to further incriminate himself in her murder. The reader is left to wonder who is to blame, until the very end when the narratives converge and the biggest plot twist sends the story into quite the spin.

The characters: Amy Dunne begins as the perfect woman. She is the inspiration behind the Amazing Amy stories written by her parents. The early books have a big impact on Amy and the way her mind has developed. This is a clever twist to the novel, as we see her reaction to the publicity and the use of her life to form the plots of books. Ultimately, Amy ends up as a sociopath.

The references to past relationships and to the level of detail in her plotting show her disturbing lack of empathy and her need to control. Cleverly, Flynn did not make Nick a likeable character. He is a fool and clearly uncaring towards his wife. He is a boy-man and as such makes some immature decisions. His bar is wholly funded by his wife, who he pulled back to his hometown, despite her love of the city. He makes himself looking foolish in front of the police and the media and as such the reader starts to believe that he could be the one to blame. The supporting cast of characters, Nick’s sister, Amy’s parents, the police and the media — are all perfect ways of questioning the events and acting as an outside view on events. Without these characters, it would be so confusing, never really knowing who is telling the truth.

The Themes: Flynn said she wanted to present a female character who wasn’t naturally all good. She was playing with gender stereotypes that immediately portrayed the woman as the victim and the man as the aggressor. Many critics view this as the major reason the novel is a success, as it is not just cheap thrills and suggested violence. It is also a novel about truth and lies and the way that a story can be built in two ways using the same set of events.

For a wide range of excellent, curated, book summaries, head over to WellRead; the home of the independent book synopsis.

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