It has actually happened. I have read Gone Girl. After all those months of delays and excuses, reading every other thriller I could get my hands on apart from the one that started the whole craze, I finally pulled it off the shelf.
I’d been putting it off partly because I knew it wouldn’t be able to live up to this fearsome hype it’s amassed and partly because I expected it to be really scary and really addictive, the kind of book that needs a whole day set aside to just devour it and still have time to watch a Disney film afterwards to remind you that the world is in general a cheerful happy place. But it was a Sunday; I was bored, lonely, mildly hungover and just wanted a distraction. And if being scared would do that then I would read something scary.
For a book that has such renown I knew surprisingly little about it when I started. And most of what I thought I knew turned out to be wrong. I knew a woman went missing, because that’s right there in the title. I also knew her husband was the chief suspect. I thought the narrative would follow several suspects as the police investigate the disappearance with a pretty linear storyline and a few dramatic twists and turns as alibis were blown and evidence was uncovered. But then I also thought it was a thriller.
In reality Gone Girl isn’t a thriller. There’s no tension, no suspense, no edge-of-your-seat, biting-your-fingernails moments. Yes, Amy goes missing and her husband, Nick, is the chief suspect but the majority of the chapters are flashbacks and have nothing to do with the disappearance at all. Because the story isn’t in the disappearance, it’s in the two main characters and the way the relationship between them has developed. It’s not a thriller; it’s domestic fiction of the highest standard.
The characters of Amy and Nick are what have made this book such a sensation. They are so well developed and so maddeningly real that you can’t put the book down. When they’re first introduced you get this very glossed over picture of their personalities, showing how they would want to represent themselves. But as the book progresses you can start to piece together the way they’ve changed, from young love, to blissful newlyweds, to two people trapped in a life they never expected. And my opinion of who to sympathise with and who to hate changed with every chapter as the narrative flicked from Nick’s perspective to Amy’s.
Even now it’s finished there’s so much potential for an in-depth conversation about the morals and motives of the two characters. I can see why it’s a book club favourite; it’s the kind of book you just need to talk about.