Yes, another post about the novel Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Earlier this week I posted a spoiler-free review of the novel. This post, however, is chock-full of spoilers and should not be read unless you have already finished the entire novel. You’ve been warned!
Do not read further unless you’ve already read the novel Gone Girl.
In my previous post I stated that I really liked the dual-narrative structure of the story. We get the same story from two different perspectives. Both narrators turn out to be slightly unreliable at times, and the reader is left to try to puzzle the pieces together. The story is told in three parts.
Part I describes the events that unfold as the police search for missing Amy. Why does Nick keep lying to the police? What is he hiding? Part I is also a story about how a marriage might unravel. Both Nick and Amy talk about their marriage and how it seems to be falling apart. Nick narrates from the present, and talks about that seems to no longer be enchanted with him, always finding fault. Amy narrates through her diary entries, and describes the initial excitement of falling love and describes trying to please a husband that seems increasingly aloof. It seems like a classic case of “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”, common communication issues that every couple goes through. Except, again certain things don’t add up. There are very small conflicts in their narratives which leave the reader wondering who to believe.
In Part II we learn that Amy is a sociopath. When it is revealed that Amy is alive and well and has staged her whole disappearance it is not a complete shock, since the reader is expecting a twist of some sort. But what is more shocking, is the complete change of Amy’s personality. Turns out the diary entries that we’ve been reading are all fake, and the Amy we’d spent pages getting to know, does not exist. The new Amy that we meet is cold and calculated and very much resembles the person Nick has described in his narrative.
And with the turn of a page, the reader finds himself realigning his sympathies toward Nick. Previously the untrustworthy narrator whom the author has spent pages making us doubt, Nick is now the victim, and while he is imperfect, he is at least human. The real Amy seems to lack certain human characteristics such as warmth and emotion (which she admits herself). She does not understand human emotion, jokes, games. She wears these emotions like masks but she has no connection with them at all. And we suddenly feel that Nick is like a weak insect caught in a spider’s web.
However, I must admit that the real Amy is more interesting than “diary” Amy. I actually laughed out loud as the real Amy goes on a two-page diatribe about the image of “The Cool Girl” that men find so attractive. Any attempt I make to summarize that passage would pale in comparison to what the author actually wrote, but suffice it to say, I found myself laughing and agreeing with sociopath Amy. It’s also fun seeing Amy’s plan work so perfectly – she’s covered all her bases and plotted the perfect murder (even if it was her own). But at the same time, Nick, although he was unfaithful, does not deserve this. What kind of ending does the author have in mind?
Part III shows that life on the run (staying hidden) does not turn out so easily for Amy and she is forced to readjust her plans and resurface. She changes her mind and decides she wants Nick back (even though she just tried to frame him for murder!) and comes up with a new, even more diabolical plan.
Even though Amy is the villain, as I read, I couldn’t help thinking, “Wow, she’s good.” She manages to think of every detail and her story is so rock-solid that it seems that she really will get away with murder.
The end of the book becomes a mind game of sorts between Nick and Amy. They both know that they are merely pretending to be in love, and both are willing to play the game to keep the other in check. Amy’s endgame is to have Nick become the perfect husband. Nick’s endgame is to pretend long enough until he can reveal his wife as the vengeful, sociopath she really is. Neither can truly be themselves around the other and so they seem to reach a stalemate. Except, that in this case, the stalemate is really a checkmate, for Amy. The villain wins. Because she gets what she wants, which is the continued image of perfection. Nick does not go to prison, but he becomes imprisoned anyway in a constant facade of appearances. And should he make a mistake one day and let the mask slip, we know what punishment awaits him. At the end of the novel, the author hints that Nick will not be able to play the game forever.
Some people didn’t like the open-ended ending, but I actually thought it was well done. I would have hated to see Nick kill Amy and end up in jail. Nick would not have been capable of killing Amy and getting away with it. And after the author does such a great job of revealing how meticulous Amy is, it would have seemed contrived to have Amy make a major mistake just so the author can tidy things up and send the villain the prison. I’m sure that many readers wanted to see Amy get what’s coming to her, but I thought keeping the two characters together was a great dark ending to a dark book.