Hold on to your butts for one of the most mystifying thrillers I’ve ever read. This is Five Minute Books.
I’m Garrett Robinson, independent author of Rebel Yell. Welcome back to Five Minute Books, where I promise to tell you everything you need to know about popular books in five minutes or less.
It’s bestseller week, and I’m reviewing the psychological thriller Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.
As always, this show will be spoiler-free—which is going to be very difficult on this one, but here we go.
Gone Girl is about a married couple, Nick and Amy Dunne, living in North Carthage Missouri, and begins on the day of their fifth wedding anniversary. Nick, who runs a bar called The Bar with his twin sister Margo, gets an unassuming call from a neighbor that his front door is wide open and his indoor cat has slipped outside. Nick quickly returns home to find that his wife has vanished, and the house contains signs of a struggle.
He immediately alerts the police, who begin a manhunt (or, womanhunt, I guess) but the longer the investigation goes, the more the spotlight seems to turn on Nick. Nick claims he’s innocent, but even you as the reader aren’t sure whether he’s telling the truth, as it’s revealed piece by piece how much he’s been lying not only to the police, but to his wife Amy, and even himself.
If you like books that are impossible to put down, here’s one indication: Gone Girl is 432 pages long in hardcover. I read it in a day. The book sinks its claws into you and doesn’t let go.
I have one minor complaint, however: at the start of the book, I was blown away by the writing style. It snapped, crackled AND popped. Around a quarter of the way through the book, it dropped down to the level of simply very good writing (as opposed to amazing). It picked back up again a couple of times—in the middle of the book, and a little bit near the end—but the point is it was slightly inconsistent.
I need to mention, however, that Nick and Amy Dunne are both writers in the story, and both of them act as narrator—Nick narrates while he’s searching for Amy, and we hear Amy’s voice through diary entries that are fed to us in every other chapter. Flynn did an epically awesome job of differentiating their writing voices. They sound and speak as two VERY different people, and it’s impressive to me that an author could pull this off so seamlessly.
Gone Girl was definitely a thriller, and like all thrillers, it had a ton of plot twists. What blew me away was how Flynn revealed these plot twists to the reader. I’m generally pretty good at predicting the twists and turns of a story. Some of these I saw coming—some took me completely by surprise.
Okay, let’s talk for a moment about the subject of female agency.
Agency simply means an individual’s capacity for action in a story, and agency for women and minorities is typically full of inequality. This applies not only to fiction, but also to history. The history textbooks tend to be filled with the great deeds of great white men, largely ignoring or glossing over the accomplishments of the Middle and Far East, and nearly everything that women ever did.
In books and movies, women very often fall into a narrow band of stereotypes—the damsel, the wet blanket, and so on—but they very rarely DO anything in the story. And just to be clear, this is NOT just a problem with male authors and screenwriters, I have been utterly SHOCKED sometimes to see books written by females where the vast majority of the characters were male and the females in the story did almost NOTHING, but were merely guided by their men. (I’m looking at you, Stephanie Meyer).
There is a distinct and vital movement in today’s art world to increase this agency among women and minorities, and I just want to say that Gone Girl has now claimed my number one spot for great examples of female agency. Again, no spoilers…but one female character in this story does SO much for the story, the plot, and the theme, that by the end you might say Nick was never actually the main character in the first place—nor was the woman he married.
Finally I have to mention the ending. Without spoiling anything, it is one of the most surprising and, frankly, BOLD endings to a book, especially a thriller, that I have seen in a long time.
In summary, I give Gone Girl four and a half stars out of five. This would have been a clean five star book if the writing style had stayed consistent throughout. But while it did dip, it didn’t dip too far. If you want an awesome page turner, something to keep you grasping for more without having to scare the crap out of you or horrify you with terrible violence, Gone Girl will be one of your favorite reads this year.
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