Gone Girl (Flynn)

Gone Girl
Gillian Flynn, 2012
Crown Publishing
432 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780307588364


Summary
Marriage can be a real killer.

One of the most critically acclaimed suspense writers of our time, New York Times bestseller Gillian Flynn takes that statement to its darkest place in this unputdownable masterpiece about a marriage gone terribly, terribly wrong.

The Chicago Tribune proclaimed that her work “draws you in and keeps you reading with the force of a pure but nasty addiction.” Gone Girl’s toxic mix of sharp-edged wit and deliciously chilling prose creates a nerve-fraying thriller that confounds you at every turn.

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around. (From the publisher.)


See the 2014 movie with Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike.
Listen to the Screen Thoughts podcast as Hollister and O'Toole compare book and movie.



Author Bio
Birth—February 24, 1971
Where—Kansas City, Missouri, USA
Education—B.A., University of Kansas; M.A., Northwest University
Awards—Ian Fleming Steel Daggers
Currently—lives in Chicago, Illinois


Gillian Flynn is an American author, screenwriter, comic book writer, and former television critic for Entertainment Weekly. Her three published novels are the thrillers: Sharp Objects, Dark Places, and Gone Girl.

Early life
Flynn was born in Kansas City, Missouri. Both of her parents were professors at Metropolitan Community College–Penn Valley: her mother, Judith Ann (nee Schieber), a reading-comprehension professor; her father, Edwin Matthew Flynn, a film professor. "Painfully shy," Flynn found escape in reading and writing and watching horror movies.

Flynn attended the University of Kansas, where she received her undergraduate degrees in English and journalism. She spent two years in California writing for a trade magazine for human resources professionals before moving to Chicago where, in 1997, she earned a Master's in journalism at Northwestern University.

Career
Initially, Flynn wanted to work as a police reporter but soon discovered she had no aptitude for police reporting. She worked briefly at U.S. News & World Report before being hired as a feature writer in 1998 for Entertainment Weekly. She was promoted to television critic, writing about both tv and film.

Flynn attributes her craft to her 15-some years in journalism:

I could not have written a novel if I hadn't been a journalist first, because it taught me that there's no muse that's going to come down and bestow upon you the mood to write. You just have to do it. I'm definitely not precious.

Although Flynn considers herself a feminist, some critics accuse her of misogyny because of the unflattering depiction of female characters in her books. Yet feminism, she feels, allows for women to be bad characters in literature:

The one thing that really frustrates me is this idea that women are innately good, innately nurturing.

Flynn also said people will dismiss...

trampy, vampy, bitchy types—there's still a big pushback against the idea that women can be just pragmatically evil, bad, and selfish.

Books
Flynn began writing novels during her free time while working for Entertainment Weekly. Her three books are—

Sharp Objects (2006) revolves around a serial killer in Missouri and the reporter who returns to her Missouri hometown from Chicago to cover the event. Partly inspired by Dennis Lehane's 2001 Mystic River, the book deals with dysfunctional families, violence, and self-harm. It was shortlisted for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar in 2007 for Best First Novel by an American Writer. It won the Crime Writers' Association "New Blood" and "Ian Fleming Steel Daggers" awards.

Dark Places (2009) centers on a woman investigating her brother who was convicted in the 1980s, when she was only a child, of murdering their parents.The book explores the era's satanic rituals and was adapted into a 2015 film. Flynn makes a cameo appearance in the film.

Gone Girl (2012) concerns a couple, the wife of which disappears on their fifth wedding anniversary, and her husband who comes under police scrutiny as the prime suspect.
The novel hit No. 1 on the New York Times Hardcover Fiction Bestseller list for eight weeks. Times culture writer Dave Itzkoff wrote that the novel was, except for the Fifty Shades of Grey series, the biggest literary phenomenon of 2012. By the end of that year, Gone Girl had sold over two million copies (print and digital).

After selling the film rights for $1.5 million, Flynn wrote the Gone Girl screenplay. The 2014 film, starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, was released to popular and critical acclaim.

Other writing
Flynn was an avid reader of comic and graphic novels when she was a child. She collaborated with illustrator Dave Gibbons and wrote a comic book story called "Masks," as part of the Dark Horse Presents series. It came out in 2015.

Flynn agreed to write the scripts for Utopia, an forthcoming HBO drama series adapted from the acclaimed British series Utopia. The HBO series is to be directed and executive produced by David Fincher, who also directed Gone Girl.

Personal life
She married lawyer Brett Nolan in 2007. They met through Flynn's grad school classmate at Northwestern but did not start dating until Flynn, then  in her mid-30s, moved back to Chicago from New York City. The couple still resides in Chicago with their two children. (Adapted from Wikipedia. Retrieved 10/13/2015.)



Book Reviews
Ms. Flynn's dazzling breakthrough. It is wily, mercurial, subtly layered and populated by characters so well imagined that they're hard to part with—even if, as in Amy's case, they are already departed. And if you have any doubts about whether Ms. Flynn measures up to Patricia Highsmith’s level of discreet malice, go back and look at the small details. Whatever you raced past on a first reading will look completely different the second time around.
Janet Maslin - New York Times


Ice-pick-sharp… Spectacularly sneaky… Impressively cagey… Gone Girl is Ms. Flynn’s dazzling breakthrough. It is wily, mercurial, subtly layered and populated by characters so well imagined that they’re hard to part with—even if, as in Amy’s case, they are already departed.  What makes Flynn so fearless a writer is the way she strips her characters of their pretenses and shows no mercy while they squirm…Flynn dares the reader to figure out which instances of marital discord might flare into a homicidal rage.
Marilyn Stasio - New York Times Book Review


Gillian Flynn's new novel, Gone Girl, is that rare thing: a book that thrills and delights while holding up a mirror to how we live… Through her two ultimately unreliable narrators, Flynn masterfully weaves the slow trickle of critical details with 90-degree plot turns… Timely, poignant and emotionally rich, Gone Girl will peel away your comfort levels even as you root for its protagonists—despite your best intuition.
San Francisco Chronicle


I picked up Gone Girl because the novel is set along the Mississippi River in Missouri and the plot sounded intriguing. I put it down two days later, bleary-eyed and oh-so-satisfied after reading a story that left me surprised, disgusted, and riveted by its twists and turns… A good story presents a reader with a problem that has to be resolved and a few surprises along the way. A great story gives a reader a problem and leads you along a path, then dumps you off a cliff and into a jungle of plot twists, character revelations and back stories that you could not have imagined. Gone Girl does just that.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch


Gillian Flynn's barbed and brilliant Gone Girl has two deceitful, disturbing, irresistible narrators and a plot that twists so many times you'll be dizzy. This "catastrophically romantic" story about Nick and Amy is a "fairy tale reverse transformation" that reminded me of Patricia Highsmith in its psychological suspense and Kate Atkinson in its insanely clever plotting.
Minneapolis Star-Tribune

 
For a creepy, suspenseful mystery, Ms. Pearl suggested Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, a novel due out this week. "You will not be able to figure out the end at all. I could not sleep the night after I read it. It's really good," Ms. [Nancy] Pearl said. "It's about the way we deceive ourselves and deceive others.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

 
Flynn’s third noir thriller recently launched to even more acclaim than the first two novels, polishing her reputation for pushing crime fiction to a new literary level and as a craftsman of deliciously twisting and twisted plots.
Kansas City Star
 

To call Gillian Flynn's new novel almost review-proof isn't a put-down, it's a fact. That's because to give away the turn-of-the-screw in this chilling portrait of a marriage gone wrong would be a crime. I can say that Gone Girl is an ingenious whodunit for both the Facebook generation and old-school mystery buffs. Whoever you are, it will linger, like fingerprints on a gun… Flynn's characters bloom and grow, like beautiful, poisonous plants. She is a Gothic storyteller for the Internet age.
Cleveland Plain Dealer


That adage of no one knows what goes on behind closed doors moves the plot of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn's suspenseful psychological thriller… Flynn's unpredictable plot of Gone Girl careens down an emotional highway where this couple dissects their marriage with sharp acumen… Flynn has shown her skills at gripping tales and enhanced character studies since her debut Sharp Objects, which garnered an Edgar nod, among other nominations. Her second novel Dark Places made numerous best of lists. Gone Girl reaffirms her talent.
Oline Cogdill - South Florida Sun-Sentinel


An ingenious and viperish thriller… It’s going to make Gillian Flynn a star… The first half of Gone Girl is a nimble, caustic riff on our Nancy Grace culture and the way in which ''The butler did it'' has morphed into ''The husband did it.'' The second half is the real stunner, though. Now I really am going to shut up before I spoil what instantly shifts into a great, breathless read. Even as Gone Girl grows truly twisted and wild, it says smart things about how tenuous power relations are between men and women, and how often couples are at the mercy of forces beyond their control. As if that weren’t enough, Flynn has created a genuinely creepy villain you don't see coming. People love to talk about the banality of evil. You’re about to meet a maniac you could fall in love with.
Jeff Giles - Entertainment Weekly


A great crime novel, however, is an unstable thing, entertainment and literature suspended in some undetermined solution. Take Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, the third novel by one of a trio of contemporary women writers (the others are Kate Atkinson and Tana French) who are kicking the genre into a higher gear… You couldn’t say that this is a crime novel that’s ultimately about a marriage, which would make it a literary novel in disguise. The crime and the marriage are inseparable. As Gone Girl works itself up into an aria of ingenious, pitch-black comedy (or comedic horror — it’s a bit of both), its very outlandishness teases out a truth about all magnificent partnerships: Sometimes it’s your enemy who brings out the best in you, and in such cases, you want to keep him close.
Salon


A portrait of a marriage so hilariously terrifying, it will make you have a good hard think about who the person on the other side of the bed really is. This novel is so bogglingly twisty, we can only give you the initial premise: on their fifth anniversary, Nick Dunne’s beloved wife Amy disappears, and all signs point to very foul play indeed. Nick has to clear his name before the police finger him for Amy’s murder.
Time


Amy disappears on her fifth wedding anniversary, and while Nick has not been a model husband, could he really have killed her? It's soon evident that if Amy is dead, that's the least of the reader's worries. Flynn's last novel, Dark Objects, was a New York Times best seller, but this one is expected to break her out.
Library Journal



Discussion Questions
A bonanza! We have two sets of Discussion Questions for Gone Girl: LitLovers own talking points...and the publisher-issued questions. Have at it!

1. Consider Amy and Nick Dunne as characters. Do you find them sympathetic...at first? Talk about the ways each reveals him/herself over the course of the novel. At what point do your sympathies begin to change (if they do)?

2. Nick insists from the beginning he had nothing to do with Amy's disappearance. Did you believe him, initially? When did you begin to suspect that he might have something to do with it? At what point did you begin to think he might not?

3. How would you describe the couple's marriage? What does it look like from the outside...and what does it look like from the inside? Where do the stress lines fall in their relationship?

4. On their fifth anniversary, Nick wonders, "What have we done to each other? What will we do?" Is that the kind of question that might present itself in any marriage? Yours? In other words, does this novel make you wonder about your own relationship? And can you ever truly know the other person?

5. Amy and Nick lie. When did you begin to suspect that the two were lying to one another...and to you, the reader? Why do they lie...what do they gain by it?

6. Do you find the Gillian Flynn's technique of alternating first-person narrations compelling...or irritating. Would you have preferred a single, straightforward narrator? What does the author gain by using two different voices?

7. A skillful mystery writer knows which details to reveal and when to reveal them. How much do you know...and when do you know it? In other words, how good is Flynn at burying her clues in plain sight? Now that you know how the story plays out, go back and pick out the clues she left behind for you.

8. Flynn divides her narrative into two parts. Why? What are the difference between the two sections?

9. In what way does Amy's background—her parents' books about her perfection—affect her as an adult?

10. The Dunnes move to North Carthage, near Hannibal, the home of Mark Twain. How has Tom Sawyer been worked into Gone Girl...and why? What does that extra-textual detail add to the story?

11. Did you suspect Nick's big secret? Were you surprised—shocked—by it? Or did you have an inkling?

12. Does Amy try hard enough to like North Carthage? Or is she truly a duck out of water, too urbane to ever fit into a small, Midwestern town?

13. What are Amy's treasure hunts all about? Why does she initiate them for Nick?

14. Critics, to a one, talk about the book's dark humor and author's wit. What passages of the book do you find particularly funny?

15. Movie time: who would you like to see play what part?

(Above questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)



Below are Penguin Random House Questions:

1. Do you like Nick or Amy? Did you find yourself picking a side? Do you think the author intends for us to like them? Why or why not?
 
2. Does the author intend for us to think of Nick or Amy as the stronger writer? Do you perceive one or the other as a stronger writer, based on their narration/journal entries? Why?
 
3. Do you think Amy and Nick both believe in their marriage at the outset?
 
4. Nick, ever conscious of the way he is being perceived, reflects on the images that people choose to portray in the world—constructed, sometimes plagiarized roles that we present as our personalities. Discuss the ways in which the characters—and their opinions of each other—are influenced by our culture’s avid consumption of TV shows, movies, and websites, and our need to fit each other into these roles.
 
5. Discuss Amy’s false diary, both as a narrative strategy by the author and as a device used by the character. How does the author use it to best effect? How does Amy use it?
 
6. What do you make of Nick’s seeming paranoia on the day of his fifth anniversary, when he wakes with a start and reports feeling, You have been seen?
 
7. As experienced consumers of true crime and tragedy, modern “audiences” tend to expect each crime to fit a specific mold: a story, a villain, a heroine. How does this phenomenon influence the way we judge news stories? Does it have an impact on the criminal justice system? Consider the example of the North Carthage police, and also Tanner Bolt’s ongoing advice to Nick.
 
8. What is Go’s role in the book? Why do you think the author wrote her as Nick’s twin? Is she a likable character?
 
9. Discuss Amy’s description of the enduring myth of the "cool girl"—and her conviction that a male counterpart (seemingly flawless to women) does not exist. Do you agree? Why does she assume the role if she seems to despise it? What benefit do you think she derives from the act?
 
10. Is there some truth to Amy’s description of the "dancing monkeys"—her friends' hapless partners who are forced to make sacrifices and perform “sweet” gestures to prove their love? How is this a counterpoint to the “cool girl”?
 
11. What do you think of Marybeth and Rand Elliott? Is the image they present sincere? What do you think they believe about Amy?
 
12. How does the book deal with the divide between perception and reality, or between public image and private lives? Which characters are most skillful at navigating this divide, and how?
 
13. How does the book capture the feel of the recession—the ending of jobs and contraction of whole industries; economic and geographical shifts; real estate losses and abandoned communities. Are some of Nick and Amy’s struggles emblematic of the time period? Are there any parts of the story that feel unique to this time period?
 
14. While in hiding, Amy begins to explore what the "real" Amy likes and dislikes. Do you think this is a true exploration of her feelings, or is she acting out yet another role? In these passages, what does she mean when she refers to herself as “I” in quotes?
 
15. What do you think of Amy’s quizzes—and "correct" answers—that appear throughout the book? As a consistent thread between her Amazing Amy childhood and her adult career, what does her quiz-writing style reveal about Amy’s true personality and her understanding of the world?
 
16. Do Nick and Amy have friends? Consider Nick’s assurance that Noelle was deluded in her claims of friendship with Amy, and also the friends described in Amy’s journal. How "rea" are these friendships? What do you think friendship means to each of them?
 
17. What was the relationship between Amy and Nick’s father? Do you think the reader is meant to imagine conversations between the two of them? Why does Nick’s father come to Nick and Amy’s home?
 
18. Amy publicly denounces the local police and criticizes their investigation. Do you think they did a good job of investigating her disappearance? Were there real missteps, or was their failing due to Amy’s machinations?
 
19. Do you believe Amy truly would have committed suicide? Why does she return?
 
20. Were you satisfied with the book’s ending? What do you think the future holds for Nick, Amy, and their baby boy?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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