Gone Girl is a dark book. So I’ll give you the Lemony Snicket warning that if you are looking for a happy story with uncomplicated, loveable characters then this book is not for you.
Gone Girl is a love story of sorts. A classic he-said/she-said. Husband Nick Dunne comes home on his wedding anniversary to find that his wife of five years is missing. Nick is emotionally unavailable and withdrawn but he’s no idiot. The cops always suspect the husband first, right? Nick searches for his wife and reminisces over their time together. The only lead he has to find his wife and clear his name is the anniversary scavenger hunt his wife left behind. Then there’s the she-said. Amy, the girl who tries to be the “cool girl.” The girl that was the star of her parent’s children’s book series Amazing Amy. Her story is told through the pages of her diary, beginning with their first meeting and leading up to the day of her disappearance.
Thematically Gone Girl tackles much of what many adults experience—the frustration of your dreams not turning out quite the way you planned, but feeling too stuck to do anything about it. Also, the depression that comes with realizing that you are not the person you thought you’d be at this stage of your life. Younger readers may find this off-putting or cynical.
Flynn’s characters are so well-crafted and believable that we feel safe entering their minds, then she slams the door shut behind us and shows us the inner workings of some very damaged people.
I would not be surprised to find out that Flynn has studied psychology. She clearly understands what it is that makes people tick. Bad people are never completely bad and more importantly, they don’t see themselves as bad. That is how the antagonist of this story is but laced with all the hatred swimming around in this person’s head are some astute critiques on our modern media obsessed culture and romantic relationships.
“We all watch the same shows, we read the same stuff, we recycle everything.”
Another major theme is that the media makes us feel the need to portray characters in our real lives. We repeat lines from movies and mold ourselves into personas like ‘cool girl’ or we ‘what’s-my-line-again?’ in distressing situations—not trusting our own instincts. The media subjects us to so many perfect, unrealistic characters in TV shows and movies that we are left feeling that who we are at our factory settings is not good enough.
We are either heroes or antagonists. There is no gray area. Gone Girl lives in the gray area and delivers many surprises that lead to a chilling ending that should defy most readers move-fed expectations.