From Gone Girl to The Silent Wife

The Silent Wife, a novel about a disintegrating marriage, just optioned by Nicole Kidman, has been billed as this year’s Gone Girl, a breakway publishing hit of 2012.

I haven’t read The Silent Wife as yet — Harrison’s road to publishing is not unike Stieg Larsson — tragically she died whilst it was doing the rounds with prospective agents and publishers. It’s on my To Be Read List. However I did read Gone Girl on the strength of some people saying they simply could not put it down. It is a bit of a pressure cooker, and surprisingly a difficult novel to write about without giving it away. I’ll do my best.

We join Nick and Amy Dunne on the day they are about to celebrate their 5th wedding anniversary in Mississippi where they have been living for the last two years. In the opening chapter as Nick enters the bar he co-owns with his sister he has a sense he is being watched by a man half-hidden across the road. Soon after Nick receives a phone call from a neighbour reporting that his front door is open and the cat is outside. Nick returns home to find the house disturbed and his wife missing under what looks like suspicious circumstances.

Then we meet Amy five years earlier who in alternative chapters retells the story of her life and her relationship with Nick starting when they first met in New York. As we travel through five years with Amy we walk beside Nick through the minutes, hours and days he spends with the police and in secret uncovering one clue that leads to another and another, surrounding Amy’s disappearance.

See right there I may have given it away with the word “in secret”.

Through both characters Flynn reveals interesting observations on familial duty, coupledom and individuality post the cathectic stage that Scott M Peck writes about in The Road Less Travelled.

Midway through the book, Amy’s chapters, revealed through her diary entries, catch up to the present day.

On the surface, Flynn has created two very real, ordinary, imperfect and likeable characters and then she takes you on a journey into a much darker world, one which will evoke strong emotional responses – and not of the usual variety. On page 35 after Nick has had his first interview with the police he discloses to us, the reader, that he had just told 5 lies to the police. I’m not sure if this was a deliberate technique, but by his simple act of admission I warmed to Nick and never really left his camp after that. I sure wanted to know what those 5 lies were. And there’s another BUT – unfortunately at this point I thought the whodunit factor of the book was given away – and I was right – dang, I don’t like it when that happens.

Despite that, Gone Girl is quite the page turner with prose that occasionally gives you reason to pause – a coathanger collarbone – isn’t that simple, beautiful? What really takes this read up a notch is the way you, the reader, become omnipresent in the story and how frustrated you become in your powerlessness to change the situation. Telling the story in two first person points of view added to the drama and tension in this book. Jodie Picoult often uses this technique for all her characters and it doesn’t work for me. I find it confusing and disorientating, constantly having to work out which character’s head I am in. Here it is used to stunning effect. My partner read this book as soon as I had finished it as I was desperate to talk to someone about it. The perfect way to read Gone Girl would be together, chapter by chapter. It’s like an episode of The Mentalist – you want to chat about what just happened during the commercial break.

So have you read it? What did you think? And what about The Silent Wife?

Rating / 5 :  3.5