If I were married to Gillian Flynn, I might be concerned. Scratch that, I would absolutely be concerned. Well…let me just say that I might be very careful Gone Girl is not only a fantastic mystery that I was barely able to put down, it is also a portrait of a marriage. A very twisted, very troubled, and in many ways, a very normal marriage.
If you haven’t read Gone Girl, please do. Really. I’m not kidding about not being able to put it down–I didn’t want to either! It was so riveting that the day I finished it I went straight out to buy another of Flynn’s novels (her first, Sharp Objects). I read that one in a day and a half. My point is, if you haven’t already, read Gone Girl.
The early days of Nick and Amy Dunne’s marriage seem to have been truly charmed. Two people, in love in their own private world of inside jokes, shared confidences, and that security that comes when you find your soul mate. Oh, wait…that’s not Nick and Amy, that’s every newly married couple… But after a few less than carefree years of marriage–dual layoffs, financial insecurity, a move from Manhattan to Nick’s hometown of Carthage, Missouri, Nick’s aging and dying parents–Amy goes missing on the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary.
In a narrative alternating between Nick’s first-person account of Amy’s disappearance and the ensuing investigation and excerpts from Amy’s journal, so begins the unraveling of a mystery as well as the dissection of a marriage.
Let’s start the discussion with a few questions:
1. From the very first day, Nick insists that he has nothing to do with Amy’s disappearance. Did you believe him? If so, did your confidence in him fade? If not, what made you think he was lying?
2. What was your impression of the couple’s marriage? What formed your belief–Amy’s diary or Nick’s descriptions? Do you think their marriage is typical of the experiences of most married couples?
3. All couples have secrets–from the “outside” and from each other. What do you think are their biggest secrets from each other and why do you think they begin lying to the other?
4. Marital problems not addressed often breed resentment. Do you think Nick and Amy resent each other and why?
5. What did you think of Amy’s anniversary treasure hunts? What do you think the purpose of them?
6. Were you surprised at the way the story unfolded? Do you think the author sustained the mystery throughout the book? Did she reveal the story’s surprises well?
7. How did you feel about the ending? Were you content with the way the story wrapped up? How would you write the epilogue?
Here are my answers:
1. When Nick proclaims his innocence, I did believe him. I wanted to, if only so that the story wouldn’t turn out to be a typical “husband kills wife” drama. My confidence did wane when we learn Nick’s big secret, but to be honest, I didn’t think he was clever enough to kill her.
2. It seemed to me that when they were living in New York, when they were both working (as writers) they had a good marriage. Amy’s job did not seem to be as fulfilling as Nick’s, but she seemed more concerned with her marriage than her job. When they both get laid off, and money becomes an issue, things fall apart. So all in all, their marriage is quite typical, money being one of the biggest trouble spots for most couples.
3. What are their biggest, as in most important secrets? For Nick I think it is that he feels inadequate–losing his job and relying on his wife’s family money for a fresh start makes him feel like a lesser man. Amy, on the other hand, is needy for attention, affection, and loyalty at all times–and at all costs, something that she acted blase’ about with Nick in the past. Not discussing these feelings with each other leads them to act and react in ways that are detrimental to the relationship and which ultimately bring out the worst in each of them.
4. Nick and Amy most definitely resent each other. Nick resents Amy from the start because she has never had to work for her financial security. He resents the perfect marriage of her parents and the seeming adoration with which they shower her. Amy resents the way that Nick is loved by all. While she has never had to work for financial security, Nick has never had to work to be everyone’s pal.
5. Amy’s anniversary treasure hunts seem to be a wonderfully romantic gesture on her part. They relive special moments of the couple’s life during the previous year. But there is definitely a deeper purpose to them, one that is not so sweet and tender. I think that Amy has used the annual hunt in a way to prove to her husband that she cares more about the marriage than he does, that she is more invested in it.
6. I was surprised at the way it unfolded. A few general aspects of the story I did figure out, but the details and the motivating factors were definite surprises. I think Flynn did a great job of holding onto her cards and playing them at just the right moments throughout the novel. Just when I thought I knew the next move, she took another turn. Brilliant!
7. The ending. Well, let me say this: I don’t think it could have been more perfect. That is, perfect in the way that the manipulative and twisted relationship of Nick and Amy’s deserved. For an epilogue I’d like to flash forward about twenty years. I’m not going into detail just yet, as I don’t want to spoil anything for those of you who might not have reached the final chapter.
What do you think? What are your answers to these questions? What other questions do you have? Please comment below and share this post with your friends and followers. I look forward to hearing your reactions to what this novel!
The discussion for this month’s selection will remain open for one week. Please add your opinions, questions, debates as Comments.
March’s selection will be The Dinner, by Herman Koch. Review and discussion questions will be posted on March 20.
In one week, when discussion on A Novel Bookstore has concluded, selections for our April book will be posted.