Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Should you believe the hype?

24 Feb
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn Review

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn Review

I do love a good book marketing campaign, and anyone who has moved an inch in London over the last couple of months will have noticed the big, striking black and orange tube posters for Gone Girl. THRILLER OF THE YEAR! they scream. But is the hype justified?

Last year, I was asked to read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn for Stylist magazine’s Book Wars feature (where 2 new releases are pitched against each other in a word-mashing fight to the death). I’d heard it described it 2012’s ‘Before I Go To Sleep’ – but then just about every psychological thriller I’d received in the last year had been described in exactly the same way, so I was a wee bit unconvinced to say the last. I’m all up for a bit of Sophie Hannah-ish mind-messing, and I did really love Before I Go To Sleep, but I think it’s fair to say I didn’t have mega high hopes when I turned the first page of Gone Girl.

A few hundred pages later, I had ripped through the book and was screeching an incredulous ‘NO F*CKING WAY’ at the ending. Mostly in a good way. Yes, some of the scenarios are ridiculous, the motives slightly questionable and I think I hated just about every character at some stage. But the plot surprises are just brilliant. You think you’ve guessed them, your guesses are confirmed, and then WHOOSH – you’re walloped in the kisser and left seeing stars. My inner monologue was a bit like this:

Ohhh, I wonder if XYZ will happen??
XYZ is SO going to happen.
XYZ HAPPENED!! So obvious. Am mega genius who should write psycho thrillers.
Hang on a minute..

Seriously, this plot does more twisting and shaking than a 1960s Beatle.

So yes. Here’s the review I did for Stylist, comparing it to Megan Abbott’s Dare Me (which I reviewed for my blog here). And if this doesn’t convince you, check out these reviews by Savidge Reads and Annabel’s House of Books.

You could be forgiven for thinking that the only books released in 2012 were tales of whips, chains and meringue-dancing inner goddesses. But 2012 has also been a massive year for the psychological thriller, of which Gone Girl and Dare Me are undoubtedly two of the finest. The latter, a razor-sharp portrayal of the chilling intensity of adolescence, is brilliantly acidic, its cheerleader protagonists hair-pulling their way through the story like terrifying, turbocharged Mean Girls.

But for plot ingenuity, it’s Gone Girl that took the crown for me.

This is a story that starts out simply – a man reports his wife missing when he discovers their empty house with signs of a struggle. Nick is a good man in a terrible situation. But suddenly you’re not so sure – why the lies? Why the secret second phone? Suddenly Nick’s offhand statement, “I’m a big fan of the lie of omission,” starts echoing in your ears. Nick’s story is interspersed with entries from Amy’s diary that paint a very different picture of the man she married. Who do you trust?

I’m desperately trying not to give too much away here, as the effect of Gone Girl is heavily dependent on its capacity to surprise. Flynn relentlessly plays with her reader, dangling hints and hushing up truths through two narrators who become more and more unreliable as the corkscrew plot unravels.

But what lurks in the shadows of every page is that chilling question: how well do we really know the people we love? As the plot ricochets towards its seriously chilling climax – and yet another twist – Nick and Amy’s once perfect love story becomes a macabre tale of war, with a shocker of an ending that made me instantly want to force everyone I know to read it.

If, like me, you like your stories a little bitter and twisted, both Gone Girl and Dare Me should rocket up your reading list. But in terms of A-list appeal, Gone Girl has the edge. With fans including SJP, India Knight and Marian Keyes, the book has also attracted Hollywood; Reese Witherspoon’s production company has snapped up the film rights.

Read it now and prepare your smug ‘the book is so much better than the film’ lines in advance.

So what was your verdict? Overhyped nonsense or one of the best thrillers of 2012?


5 Responses to “Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Should you believe the hype?”

  1. Mira February 24, 2013 at 8:11 pm #

    Another book on my list. You have convinced me. 🙂

  2. gaskella February 24, 2013 at 8:17 pm #

    Thanks for your link – I’m going to have to read ‘Dare me’ now! They’ll struggle to capture the complexity in a film won’t they? Mini-series perhaps to do it justice…

    • proseandconsbookclub February 24, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

      Yeah I wonder how they’ll do it in a film.. Guess they’ll have to do a lot of perspective switching, but even then it’ll be tricky to keep all the twists won’t it? Have to wait and see I guess!

  3. Claire 'Word by Word' February 25, 2013 at 8:20 pm #

    Sounds like the perfect summer read to me, may have to indulge 🙂

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