Gillian Flynn? You don’t say. I swear there were moments when I thought I had it all worked out: Gone Girl, last year’s bestselling sensation, was - whisper it - written by a computer. A computer a great deal smarter and more sophisticated than Roald Dahl’s Great Automatic Grammatizator, but a computer nonetheless. What I mean by that is that not even the most devout Dostoyevsky fan would be able to think himself into anything here.
Gripping wouldn’t begin to describe it, and however much I tried to resist the hype, by page 30 I was a convert waving my huge white flag. It’s that good. For a novel that begs to be liked.
And it's traps all around. The bloody thing is so immaculately intricate, so cleverly conceived, so painstakingly plotted, that it’s nearly impossible to describe it without accidentally stepping onto a mean spoiler. I'll give away the premise: a young family moves from New York City to Mississippi (in itself a conflict). There might, just might, be something wrong with that family. One day Amy (the girl) is gone. Nick (the boy) is looking for her. Rest is like a minefield. There are pages in the novel where you will think you know where this is going, but in actual fact you probably don’t. You always get two sides of the story, one coming from Nick and the other coming from Amy, and it might take some time before you will settle for the obvious fact that the narrator is almost always unreliable. Especially if you have two of them.
Unabashedly mainstream. For all the cleverness, the book has undeniable mass appeal. Its wit is so easily grapsable. However, mass appeal shouldn’t in any way overshadow Gillian Flynn’s convincing, supercharged writing. It’s the sort of prose that wants to have sex with you – on every page and with every line. Flynn’s observations are usually impressive. The way Nick dismisses teenagers as ‘bored but busy’. The way sleep is compared to a cat (‘only comes to you when it is ignored’). Like every superior mainstream novel, Gone Girl will probably leave you sated rather than satisfied, but equally you don’t have to compromise to enjoy it. Even, yes, even if you are the sort of Dostoyevsky fan I alluded to earlier. You will know you are being played with, and there’s a great chance you will know the rules of the game. But what does it matter.
There’s going to be a David Fincher-directed film in 2015. Fincher seems to be the go-to director for doing this sort of ‘big book, great expectations’ thing. For the record, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo the film was perfectly serviceable, but it also exposed all the shallowness of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo the book. Let's wait and see what happens here, but I won't hold my breath.
Speaking of 2012, Gone Girl was the perfect antidote to Will Self’s impenetrable Umbrella. Appealing, entertaining, easy on the eye. And for the record – Umbrella was my favourite novel from 2012.