Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn:
Do you follow the Tournament of Books every March? I check the results daily, although I rarely read any of the books that are discussed. I can't help myself listening in on the discussion and commentary - generally, when I hear a conversation about a book, my ears perk up. Anyway, I have tried reading two novels that I discovered through previous Tournaments and could not even finish them, I disliked both so much. But, I'm happy to say third time's a charm - the Tournament led me to Gone Girl, which was a winner (in the Tournament as well, at least for now).
This is the story about Nick and Amy Dunne, a thirtysomething couple that have both lost their jobs, their money and their social lives in New York City. They move to Nick's hometown in Missouri to help take care of his aging parents, and Nick opens a bar with his twin sister while Amy plays housewife. On their 5th wedding anniversary, Amy disappears under mysterious circumstances and Nick, the local cops and the reader are challenged with putting the pieces of the puzzle together.
That's about all I can tell you about the story. There are many twists that author Gillian Flynn throws our way. At one time, I found myself even dissecting every little bit of information I was given down to the title and characters' names. Flynn doesn't always play fair - sometimes she tricks us by giving us false leads. Sometimes it's obvious (Nick tells us he puts a clue in his pocket, but doesn't reveal what the paper says, at least not yet), sometimes not (is Nick envisioning a violent act that really happened, or is it just a random fantasy/daydream?). Everything eventually is divulged, and most of the time in a satisfactory way, but sometimes I resented Flynn's obvious messing around with the reader.
I knew enough about the novel to be on guard from the first page. Even so, I was surprised by a lot of author tricks that were cleverly employed. Take Amy's diary entries that comprise the first third of the book (we toggle between Amy's account and Nick's). I almost didn't make it past that first diary entry and was on the verge of setting down the book for good. What grown woman writes "diary entries" anyway? Especially ones that start with "Tra and la!" Seriously? I am supposed to believe this? Approach the novel with some skepticism, because all is not what it seems, even down to things like diary entries.
I love the elements of humor throughout the novel - "she appeared on our doorstep with a welcome-home egg scramble and a family pack of toilet paper (which didn't speak well for the egg scramble)." Flynn also transitions Amy's writing with Nick's in interesting ways, such as "I wonder if I have made a very big mistake," writes Amy at the end of a chapter. The beginning of the next chapter, with Nick's point of view, starts with "I made a mistake." To keep us turning pages, Flynn often surprises us at the end of chapters to keep us turning. It worked - I finished the book at 1:30 am one night last week, and I found it very hard to put down, obviously. However, I will say that once the book was put down, I was happy to forget about it and the characters for a while. About the characters: much has been said about how terrible they are (as in bad, not badly written). They are, but I found them very believable, probably because we can slowly see their true colors as we go through all those twists and turns of the plot.
The downsides to the book? It's very "2012." I don't think the novel will age well - there are many references to pop culture & modern times (George Clooney is mentioned once). Also, I didn't buy into the diary entries (but be patient, they're there for a reason) and, finally, the feeling that the author is playing not only with her characters, but also her readers. Despite all that, I had great fun reading into the wee hours of the morning, and it was nice to have a page turner to dive into.
Let me know if you have read any novels from Tournament of Books - was it a winner?