Thrillers come in many forms. Some have you riveted from the first page. Some stutter from event to event. And some – some very rare ones, alas – suck you into them, leaving your mind in a whirl when you have ended. Gone Girl falls right into the third category. It is a thriller, yes, but calling it one seems unfair because there is so much more to it than just untangling a crime or righting a wrong (which, let’s face it, are what most thrillers are about).
Gone Girl is the story of Nick and Amy Dunne, a couple living in Missouri. On their fifth anniversary, Amy goes missing. And clues seem to indicate that she was murdered by her husband. Sounds simple enough? Not the way in which Flynn narrates it. For, this is a story that is told from both perspectives – Amy and Nick narrate their sides of the story in alternative chapters. While Nick starts from the day of Amy’s disappearance, Amy’s narrative leads up to the same day.
It is a riveting tale. You see two people, once attached to each other, growing apart, and witness not just a crime, but a relationship coming apart at the seams. And you see it from both people’s perspectives, with each person trying their best to justify their stance and influence the police, the public, the media, their near and dear ones, and of course,you, in their favour. It is a tug of war, and just when you think that you have figured out what happened, someone throws a spin on the whole narrative – there were at least three occasions when our jaws hit the floor at unexpected twists in the tale.
Flynn rides two horses travelling in different directions and does so brilliantly. You will find yourself taking sides midway through the book (just like the cops, Amy’s parents and the media), rooting for either Amy or Nick, and then suddenly wonder if you are doing the right thing, as some fact tumbles out of the dark. It is not spine-chilling or racy – in writing style, Flynn bears greater semblance to the literary elegance of Ruth Rendell and Reginald Hill rather than the breakneck pace of a Dan Brown or John Grisham – but it is nevertheless compelling. Flynn’s attention to detail and narrative skills are excellent and you can actually visualise scenes as the book proceeds. There are no adrenaline rushes, no breathtaking action, or amazing heroes here, just the lives of two people being turned inside out, with each person telling his/her side of the story convincingly. And neither ever telling you the complete truth.You hear the perspectives of both the criminal and his/her victim, and for a long time have no idea which is which!
All of which makes Gone Girl easily the best thriller (heck, the best book) we have read for a while in terms of sheer suspense – it keeps you guessing till the very end, and even there, adds an unexpected twist. This is a brilliant tale, brilliantly told.
Must read? Yes, but only if you feel upto being shaken. And stirred.
By Gillian Flynn
Orion Publishing Group