Not a Foregone Conclusion – Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl

“Your conclusion should almost wrap back to itself, a circle that almost loops around but then veers just slightly from a full return. You want the readers to feel closure, but you don’t want to sew it up so tight that they can walk away and not think about what you’ve written ever again. Leave them thinking.” That’s what I tell my students about how to wrap up an essay or a story – a circle that doesn’t quite close.

So imagine my delight when Gillian Flynn took my advice in Gone Girl.

What?! Are you saying Ms. Flynn has never heard of me and has never had need of my classes?  Are you sure she wasn’t the quiet woman in the back row of my English 101 course? :)

Seriously though, the conclusion is what I loved and hated most about Gone Girl.  (No spoilers, don’t worry.)  Flynn managed to keep me guessing all the way, and while I was frustrated by the ending, I loved it, too, because it wasn’t too neat, too easy.

But it’s more than the conclusion that made me love this book – it’s the writing.  Flynn pulls me into the lives of Amy and Nick thoroughly, making me love and loathe them in turn.  By the end of the novel, I didn’t know who to put my allegiance with, who to hand my sympathy, so I kept it for myself (and maybe for Go), unable to throw my lot in entirely with either of the protagonists.

Flynn also writes two voices (okay, more than two if we want to be technical) very well.  She uses the structure of the book to signal the changes in point of view, but it’s more than simply structural – her word choices, sentence constructions, and rhythm also change with the speaker.  It’s a great piece of writing.

So, read Gone Girl, if you haven’t already.  You’ll like it if you enjoy mysteries, family dramas, and books where point of view crucial to the story. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go pound my pillow over the ending a bit more.

What do you think of Flynn’s work? What do you think makes a good conclusion to a piece of writing?


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  • Barbara Bartels

    Somewhere in the middle of Gone Girl, the book ceased being reality-based for me and started being about the twists and reversals. How clever! What next! I thought. I liked the ending, but accepted it on the basis of that admiration.Over the top. I did feel that someone had a lot of explaining to do — and it wasn’t the characters. it was Gillian Flynn. A little over explainy at the end. But I was amused.

  • Laurel-Rain Snow

    I thoroughly enjoyed Gone Girl…it will be one of my ten favorite books of this year. And all the elements you describe were the ones that captured me. I was very happy with how skillfully the author “spoke” in each character’s voice, until I felt I was right inside that narrator’s head.

    Yes, the ending was unexpected, which is a good thing. I know I won’t forget this book anytime soon.


  • Linda C. Wisniewski

    Writing in two different points of view was skillful, made me sympathize then dislike, then question both of them. The ending was a disappointment. Overall, I’d say it was a tour de force of “look what I can do” writing that left me feeling empty. After investing days of my time to read a well-praised book, I want something more than “sh#t happen” or as the kids say, “meh.” I won’t be reading her next book.