When five years ago Nick Dunne and Amy Elliott, two young New Yorkers with brilliant prospects and steady, white-collar jobs, got married it seemed they would be the happiest couple in the world. He, a journalist, was handsome, intelligent and clearly infatuated with his wife. She, a writer and a psychologist, was financially independent and deep in love with her husband – or so it seemed. Then came an economic crunch and everything started going to the dogs.
Nick lost his job. Soon afterwards Amy lost hers. Amy’s parents, so far pretty well-off because of a popular series of books for children featuring Amazing Amy (a kind of alter ego of their own daughter), had invested poorly; as a result they were forced to sell the historic house Amy adored and almost liquidate their daughter’s trust fund. Another ‘Amazing Amy’ book proved to be a complete flop. Nick’s mother got a cancer; his father was diagnosed with Alzheimer. Nick and Amy started to quarrel. Seeing his life crashing down around his ears Nick decided to leave NYC and return to a little town in Missouri where he was born. Unwilling Amy followed him – she was left with enough funds to let a house and buy Nick and his twin sister, Margo (Go), a bar. Nick promised to pay his wife back as soon as he started to earn.
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 wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. There are traces of a struggle in the living room but the police are puzzled – what has really happened? Was Amy kidnapped? Did she run away? Is she alive or dead? Finally, was her handsome husband somehow involved? If yes, what was his role? Soon all Nick’s sins and mistakes are going to be exposed and judged by the whole America. Is he really as innocent as he claims? If yes, why is he lying almost all the time?
It was supposed to be a thriller with a twist or two. The first part, narrated alternatively by Nick and Amy in the first person limited voice, reminiscing about their earlier New York life and romance (Amy’s diary) and presenting the initial phase of the investigation following Amy’s disappearance (Nick’s relation) was rather too staid for my liking. All dirty secrets and lies of that pampered couple were slowly unraveling. Thrilling? Only if you like the so-called ‘reality tv’.
It was obvious from the very beginning that both Amy and Nick, two spoiled children in their forties facing the harsh reality of becoming much, much poorer than they’d ever imagined possible, were showing the uglier sides of their characters. Predictable like hell. I got bored pretty soon, skimming the chapters, because I am really not into reading about such problems. You want to whine to me about moving south and “only” renting a mansion there (imagine calling it hard times –TWO people, one not working at all, and a cat, can afford living in a mansion)? Being unhappy because you have too much free time on your hands? Clean your house, stupid! Find yourself another skill and occupation, stupid! People are doing it all the time! Ah, but you are used to work only as a hobby? Well, that’s the luxury perhaps 1% of people can afford. You want to make fun of your lowly, un-posh neighbors and their silly, peasant casseroles and shopping in bulk? Well, let me repeat myself: I am so not interested.
Then second part was supposed to surprise me with a major twist; still I have to say it was anything but surprising. If you want to thrill your readers you cannot leave huge hints left, right and centre, the biggest of them being the completely false tone of Amy’s secret diary from the first part. That’s true, the main characters in the second part revealed sides to them that were quite shocking and sometimes even entertaining (Amy!) but still it seemed too little too late to save the book. Overall I didn’t buy the premise Gillian Flynn was trying to sell me, not for a moment. I am being deliberately vague here in order not to spoil you; let me just say that it was something completely artificial and too dependent on pure luck and other people’s unaware cooperation to work properly in real life. The ending left me smirking – I might be wrong but I suppose the author left a lot of unfinished threads deliberately just to be sure she can start an even bulkier sequel. Which I am so not going to buy/borrow and read.
I expected something good, fresh and original and was left with a bad taste in my mouth. I can’t understand the whole noise around this book – perhaps it’s been fueled by the marketing gurus trying to sell the movie. An artificial thriller with artificial, predictable twists –I situate it firmly in the lower region on my ‘meh’ scale. I am still in two minds about the movie – meaning I haven’t decided yet whether to watch it or not. Maybe.