It’s always a big decision, picking a book before you go on holiday. For me it’s usually a toss-up between packing an extra book in case my first choice is a flop or squeezing that extra sundress in… (Being your typical female, the answer is usually a no-brainer!)
This year I craved a healthy dose of escapism, an unassuming, unchallenging “beach read”. And so I made what I am now considering to be an extremely misguided move – I went with popular opinion. I did a rather unoriginal search for the most read book of the last year and it threw up “Gone Girl” a contemporary thriller by critically acclaimed suspense writer, Gillian Flynn. A stickler for reviews, I duly checked them out and who can argue with 1,378 five star reviews. I can, apparently.
The novel centres on the unsolvable mystery that is the marriage between the two protagonists, Nick and Amy. Both are dissatisfied New York writers who have lost their jobs to the recession and are forced to uproot themselves and slot into a simple life Missouri life, into a town plagued by unemployment and seemingly, a loss of hope.
On the day of their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy suddenly goes missing. The typical signs of a “whodunit” murder are all there, upturned furniture, appliances left on, blood on the floor…but is it that simple? The book is initially told through the eyes of un-doting husband Nick. Upon discovering his wife is missing, Nick is unusually nonchalant and it soon becomes obvious that any love he once had for his missing wife has long been lost. Naturally, Nick becomes the prime suspect for Amy’s disappearance and a trickle of discrepancies and incriminating discoveries begin to surface.
The book then shifts its focus to Amy and we are presented with a series of past-tense diary entries in which Amy outlines the strains of being married to Nick. She is successfully portrayed as the doting, ever-loving wife, who has spent the last few years mourning the loss of her job, her New York life and most importantly, the affection of her husband. It is easy to resonate with Amy, she is likeable and un-scathing in these diary entries which slot in-between Nick’s present tense narrative of the police investigation and his apparent disinterest towards his missing wife.
I do have to say that at this point in the book I was happily hooked, whilst it was never going to be a work of literary genius, I was enjoying the thrill of the mystery, was it Nick? (No too obvious). Was it Amy’s unusually idyllic parents? Was it Amy herself? Throw a few weirdo ex-boyfriends and obsessive ex-girlfriends into the mix and the story is shaping up quite nicely to be a satisfying, easy-to-read thriller, probably forgettable but definitely enjoyable.
And then **SPOILER ALERT** the book takes what is, for me, an unsatisfying twist. Not wholly unpredictable, but kind of boring. We are only about halfway through and we find out Amy is still alive, she has framed her husband (for cheating on her, but mostly for falling out of love with her) and it turns out she is a sociopathic, egotistical psycho. All distaste for Nick evaporates immediately and formulates into pity as we realise that he has been stitched up by his unbearable other half.
It soon transpires that over the course of her lifetime Amy has fraudulently accused her ex-boyfriend of rape, her father of being a paedophile and her best-friend of threatening to kill her. We also learn that she is guilty of faking pregnancy by stealing her neighbour’s urine and is now committed to framing her husband for murder (which carries the death penalty in Missouri). Once I had come to terms with the disappointing fact that the “whodunit” element of the novel was over, I briefly found myself enjoying it again; I took a guilty pleasure in my change in attitude towards Nick and found myself rooting for him to uncover his wife’s betrayal.
But then, **SECOND SPOILER ALERT** in another thoroughly disappointing turn of events, psycho Amy, the same woman who was more than prepared to see her husband die for something he hadn’t done, decides that she loves him again and un-expectantly returns to his doorstop. Although, only after murdering an ex-boyfriend who has been helping her hide out… (What?) So there’s the crime thriller element of the novel trampled on again. The wife returns of her own accord. Damn.
Now call me a sucker for a cheesy crime thriller, but if I decide to indulge in a murder mystery novel, I want clues, I crave twists and turns and incriminating evidence and counter-evidence and that “yes he did it, no she did it, actually did he do it?” kind of read. And this book just didn’t deliver for me. Instead it chronicles the twisted, depraved, unhealthy relationship of two rather, ultimately unlikeable protagonists.
I’m not sure if Gillian Flynn got bored or if it was what she intended all along, but after initially (and naturally) feeling only anger and hatred towards his killer wife when she turns up on his doorstep, determined to reveal her for who she really is, he eventually gives up and succumbs to her trickery. Amy falls pregnant and they stay together. The end.
I could not have predicted a more frustrating, dissatisfying end. Not only does this novel seem to wallow in its own self-pity, go against all convention and normality, but it also seems to send out the message: Guys, if you are unlucky enough to marry a psycho wife, capable of murder and treachery, don’t do anything about it, hold onto her, give her babies and confine yourself to misery. Call me boring, but despite a wealth of contrary option, I just didn’t and couldn’t get it. Lesson learnt: if you’re looking for a satisfying easy read, amazon’s top-read list is not always the best place to start!