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Book Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

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(Photo: courtesy, the publisher)

(Photo: courtesy, the publisher)

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By Eric Thomas
@ETFlint

Gone Girl has bubbled on the top of the best seller lists since it was released in 2012. Its author Gillian Flynn, whose two previous novels had turned a few heads but never made a splash, is the latest literary rock star. The movie is scheduled for an October release, starring Ben Affleck and directed by David Fincher. All of this is for good reason. If you are looking for a GREAT summer read, few books are as entertaining as Gone Girl.

The plot is simple. Nick and Amy Dunne were the picture of perfect marriage—attractive writers living in New York City—until the 2008 crash hits, and Nick is downsized from his job as a journalist. Nick and Amy retreat to Nick’s small hometown of North Carthage, Missouri seeking reasonable real estate rates and a fresh start. On the day of their fifth wedding anniversary, when Amy vanishes.

No fair giving you any extra details. It’s hard to talk about Gone Girl, because almost any information is a spoiler. Flynn demonstrates jaw-dropping talent as a writer as she slowly brings this pot to a boil. She employs literary devices so deftly that you can’t see the gears turning in the background. There are plot twists almost every five chapters, and while that seems like it would collapse into self parody, Flynn keeps the plates spinning without a hint of wobble. Its rare that you find a book that starts the action so early in the chapters, and somehow keeps you guessing all the way until the end.

Some may be scared off because Gone Girl is an international best seller. To be honest, I was for a long time. I dismissed it because the tastes of the general public have lately hovered over things like Fifty Shades and Twilight. Literary snobs who pour over books like “Omensetter’s Luck” or “The Recognitions” might hold their noses in the air and walk by Gone Girl. You’re missing out if you do.

Flynn is a serious talent. I started the book with a shrug, thinking that this was just the latest in an endless line of pulpy, predictable thuds where you can see the every shadow on the wall before it jumps at you. Not true. It’s hard to talk about without giving anything away, but Gone Girl is a cliche-free book, a truly rare thing to see in a best seller these days.

Amid all this praise, there are elements worthy of criticism. While the format of the book is necessary to make things work, it does lead for some eye rolling moments. Flynn is easily one of the most empathetic writers I’ve ever read, constantly reminding the reader who is speaking and what has happened up until now. So there are sentences like, “Can you believe I, Amy, could be accused of such a thing?” Nick himself can be a flat, colorless character in certain spots of the book, and other characters just lie on the page, but these are nit-picking complaints that honestly don’t matter much in by the time all is said and done.

Read the book before the movie comes out in October, because there is no way David Fincher can preserve the book’s coolest trick. The movie adaptation was inevitable, as the book was a best seller for a solid year before it was optioned at $1.5 million, and while Gone Girl has a great story, there is no way it can exist outside of a book. Flynn herself has said in interviews that the format of the book has been abandoned in the movie. Seeing the movie before reading the book will likely spoil the surprise, so you can’t possibly get the same experience if you see the film first. I give Fincher and the others a lot of credit for trying, Flynn wrote the script herself, because they have a very steep climb.

If you’re one of the people who haven’t read Gone Girl yet, you need to pick it up soon. The two years of hype have been well-deserved.

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