A noir mystery so well-written and cleverly structured that it overcame my usual dislike of reading about narcissistic hipster yuppies, not to mention my usual dislike of multiple plot elements which are too spoilery to mention.

Nick’s wife Amy has vanished without a trace, and Nick’s very first chapter contains unsettling musings about the beauty of her skull and the confession that he lied repeatedly in his interview with the police. His narration, which begins the day vanished and continues forward from there, alternates with Amy’s diary, which begins when they first met and also continues forward. Nick is clearly concealing some secrets, but did he kill her? Amy’s narration seems more subtly unreliable, detailing how she makes herself into a paper-thin image of the perfect woman, as portrayed in the shallow magazine quizzes she writes. Is she really fooling herself?

I guessed the main twist upon hearing the premise, and another about a quarter of the way into the book; if you’ve read a lot of mysteries, you will have come across these twists before, though probably not half so well-executed. So the pleasure for me was in the excellent prose and the suspense of the unfolding, in the details rather than the broad strokes. I knew where the story was headed, in general terms, but the smaller twists took me by surprise. I was up till 3:00 AM reading, and have no regrets.

Warning: even for noir, the characters are incredibly unlikable. I did care what happened to them, but not because I liked them.

You can read the beginning of the book here.

Giant spoilers lurk below.

True: upon hearing the premise-- woman vanishes without a trace, husband seems suspicious-- my first thought was "she faked her own death to frame him." And yes, I guessed that Amy's diary was part of the frame early on, though I wasn't sure I was correct.

Plot elements which I despise: women faking rape, women framing men for rape, women getting pregnant to get revenge on men, infidelity, yuppies cheating on each other. And yet I still loved this book.

Amy was an incredibly convincing sociopath. Flynn nailed her narcissism, glee in her own cleverness, and total lack of empathy.

The diary entries were Amy’s construction of the woman she thought men wanted women to be, and yet the real Amy also felt to me like a male construct, hating other women and particularly women’s bodies in graphic detail, in a way that I have only ever heard from men: all those comments about rank pussy and so forth. But Flynn, of course, is female. I wonder if it was a commentary on how even “real Amy” has shaped herself according to male beliefs? Or if it was because Flynn associated sociopathy with misogyny, even if the sociopath was female? Amy’s narrative was just as male gaze-y as Nick’s.

I love the cover, with the woman’s flying hair the only trace left of her as she vanishes off-page, the woman herself elusive, unseen, gone.

Gone Girl: A Novel
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