x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Gone Girl, a portrait of toxic intimacy

A husband and wife begin to feel their marriage unravelling. When the wife disappears, questions about the husband arise.

Gone Girl
Gillian Flynn
Weidenfeld & Nicolson

Love, according to the quote that prefaces this book, "is the inevitable blossoming of its opposites, a magnificent rose smelling faintly of blood". So we know before we have even begun that this love story is going to be complicated.

Gillian Flynn specialises in difficult characters, and husband and wife Nick and Amy Dunne are compellingly so. The book opens on their fifth wedding anniversary and something is wrong from the outset. From the opening line as Nick fixates on his wife's head - the shape of her skull, the "coils" of her brains with all her thoughts "shuttling through" them - to the swift realisation that she has disappeared, everything feels out of kilter. The further we wade in, the more intense this seasick uncertainty becomes.

Flynn alternates between Nick's voice and Amy's assumptions and reassembles characters page by page. Did Nick murder his wife? If he didn't, what has happened?

Part thriller, part portrait of toxic intimacy, the question becomes not so much what has he done to her, but what have they done to each other?

* Laura Collins