I have to hold my hands up here. On my opening blog post I said I wasn’t going to review books that were hugely successful. And so what the heck am I doing reviewing Gone Girl, which was a worldwide sensation? I’ve changed my approach, that’s what. I’m reviewing these books from a writer’s perspective, as part of continuously learning and developing my craft. Therefore it makes sense to include books that have been successful. I’m going to try and mix it up,..
I read Gone Girl a few years ago, and I remember thinking it was a great book. I flicked through the covers on my bookshelf and it was as though the book called my name, pleading me to have a second read (okay, it wasn’t quite that exciting). Before I knew it, I was devouring the pages and there was no turning back.
I’m not going to summarise the plot, because we all know it. Even if you haven’t read the book, you’ve probably watched Ben Affleck playing the lead in the movie version. So I’m going to head straight to my critique from a writer’s perspective.
As a writer, what did I think was brilliant about the book? The first thing that struck me was the vivid, descriptive writing. This isn’t always the case with commercial fiction, particularly thrillers, and usually this is deliberate. Again, there is a balance, and I think Gillian Flynn gets it just right.
Amy’s character is brilliant. Unpeeling the layers, she is a Class A psychopath, and yet she is the fascinating type, always wearing a mask, morphing unidentified into normal society.
The author deliberately keeps the reader uncertain about Nick. We are told early on that he is lying, that he has secrets, and we’re left uncertain until the midpoint section whether he is the killer. Even then, the author leaves us questioning whether we are on his side, particularly after it is revealed he had an affair with a younger student. I felt that Gillian Flynn was challenging me: where does your moral compass lie?
The plot is incredibly clever. There are just enough layers to make it fascinating, without confusing you.
As a writer, what didn’t quite hit the mark for me? I felt that, on occasions, the author laboured the point a bit too much (this is something I’ve been guilty of, too). I also felt that the story could have been condensed. I think it would have been sharper and more thrilling with 50 to 75 pages cut out.
The diary aspect delivered the perfect unreliable narrator. In a way, this was genius. Again, I felt it could have been cut, and it didn’t need to elaborate quite so much about their previous life.
In summary, it is a brilliant book, and one any thriller writer who wants to succeed needs to read.