Author: Gillian Flynn
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Genre: Noir, Thriller
Contemporary entertainment is peppered with tales of scorned femme fatales, slimy masculine figures, and doomed marriages. The effect of postmodernism in 20th Century literature and cinema saw artists question the constructs we had become accustomed to. Some of the biggest films, TV shows, books, and visual art works tore apart political, economic, social and cultural convention with cheek-wide glee. Gone Girl has, arguably, carried the postmodernist torch throughout the past few years. Flynn, a former Entertainment Weekly journalist turned author, has a real soft spot for tearing everything down around her. It is true – hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. However, we cannot, as much as we would like to, blame everything on tabloid media’s virus-like effect on pop-culture and ideology. So, why is Gone Girl the much-talked-about book of the past decade.
Flynn’s second book, a New York Times Best Seller about 16x over, jumps from one gender to the other in rapid succession, giving the audience at least two fully rounded narrators. The unreliable narrator trope is beaten like drum throughout this arresting page-turner. We have Nick Dunne and Amy Elliot-Dunne, a married couple wiling away in a Missourian ‘McMansion’ whilst Nick’s mom dies of breast cancer. Nick, having grown up in this fly-over territory, has gotten used to the tranquility of modern suburbia. He, now a creative writing teacher at the local university, is even fine with the nosy neighbours and homeless communities surrounding them. Amy, having grown up in New York City’s upper-class establishments, feels restless, lonely, and frustrated. The plot thickens, however, when, on the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick returns home to find signs of a struggle and blood splatters around the kitchen and living room – Amy has gone missing.
In the “dark and gritty” era, where post-war disillusionment draws us toward cynical, nihilistic artistic works, Gone Girl has something intelligent and interesting to say about our world. There are two forms of conversation warranted here – discussion pre and post Flynn’s big publication. Pre Gone Girl, the ascension of neo noir, crime-thriller experiment were pumped out without notice. Post Gone Girl, however, this trend has come close to overshadowing anything else the film, TV, and novel industries have to offer. The book utilises its core ingredients with style and brutal tenacity. The duelling narration bleeds over into several cold, heart-wrenching flashbacks. Nick and Amy’s first interactions – defined by diary entries telling of cute dates and explicit sexual encounters – boosts the conflict and climax’s impact impeccably. Each flashback makes us the third wheel, delving into a couple’s saccharine adventures. The fusion of bitter and sweet becomes increasingly more concentrated and repulsive.
Some chapters and pages are difficult to wrap your head around. Flynn’s pulpy prose extends beyond reason at some points, throwing in a wide array of tonal shifts and shocking revelations. As the ultimate Airport novel/beach read, the appeal is certainly on display. However, some may find this sordid, sycophantic narrative hard to digest. Nick and Amy, despite the story’s overwhelming trials and tortuous situations, are barely likeable. Flynn, finding unique ways of emphasising key words and phrases, illuminates just how shallow and disgusting they are. Their every thought a feeling is covered in a thick layer of sarcasm and irony. The world-weary “partner in crime” do indeed deserve one another. However, Flynn’s worldview reflects that of some of contemporary entertainment’s greatest visionaries.With two fingers on the pulse, each sentence beats like a well-oiled drum.
The self-reflexivity and steely reserve elicits several laugh-out-loud comedic moments. Some throwaway lines are pithy and cute, others cause eyeballs to burst out of skulls. The book’s relationship with neo noir conventions, from the claustrophobic atmosphere to the divide between masculinity and femininity, reinvigorates the once-overlooked genre. In fact, Flynn takes joy in destroying the media, the American Dream, and all first world problems in between. This uber-popular novel may become the encapsulation of the early 21st Century’s greatest talking points. It’s a twisted, visceral, and thrilling ode to crime-thriller literature immense allure.