I know this book has already been reviewed on this blog by my colleague but I enjoyed this book so much that I wanted to add my review too!
This is the story of married couple Nick and Amy Dunne. On their fifth wedding anniversary Nick comes home to find his front door wide open, furniture overturned as if there has been a violent struggle and his wife gone. The book then gives us alternate chapters of Nick dealing with the fallout of his wife’s disappearance and extracts from Amy’s diary telling the story of their relationship from their meeting up to the time of her apparent kidnap and probable murder. Neither the reader nor the characters know what really happened to Amy so we all get to engage in a captivating guessing game as well as finding out about the dysfunctional relationship of two very flawed characters.
The initial chapters I struggled with a little, I disliked the characters and found a lot of the regular pop references unfamiliar partly because it’s an American book and partly because I’ve just never been very clued up on popular culture now or as a child! But as I read on the negatives became positives and I found myself gripped by the story and enjoying the writing style. I think it’s a real tribute to Flynn that she has managed to write such a compelling book where pretty much all the characters are various degrees of repellent! Usually I find it hard to get into a story when you are unable to root for any of the characters, these characters are all rotters; Amy, Nick, their families, their friends, the police investigating the case, the lawyers who get involved and the media reporting on the case – by no means are they all evil but none of them are remotely likeable or admirable in their behaviour. I guess the ‘character’ you are rooting for is the story itself – you just have to see it played out. For once I agree with the opinions on the book cover, this book really was ‘addictive’, I read it in a weekend which is very unusual for me as I tend to be a slow reader.
Another thing I enjoyed about the book was the setting. After I had got over the unfamiliarity the alien-ness became an asset. It is primarily set in a mid-American town that is really suffering in the economic recession; it’s a background of boarded up shops, layoffs, struggles and broken dreams – a setting very fitting and very real.
The first part of the book focuses on the past of their relationship and immediate aftermath of the disappearance. Then it shifts to a sort of PR battle between various characters but primarily focusing on Nick. First he is the pitiable ‘widower’, then the prime suspect, next the terrible husband, then pitied again as the wrongly accused and back to prime suspect. These shifts are not entirely based on evidence found but also the media’s changing angle on the story which swings this way and that. It is an interesting analysis of how the media judges those involved in crime and makes decisions about who is the victim and who the villain – there are many examples of this process in real life news stories.
The third section of the book is a sort of conclusion, dealing with the aftermath of events. This is the part of the book I enjoyed the least. It’s not bad but I often find with mysteries and thrillers that the questions (what happened? who’s guilty? will the police work it out? etc.) are actually more interesting than the answers!
I highly recommend this book and if you haven’t read it yet or seen the film I think you should pick up a copy today. If you haven’t managed to avoid plot spoilers, and it’s tricky as it has been widely discussed and reviewed, I still recommend you read it as it is a well crafted tale that offers enjoyment beyond the twists, turns and surprises.