If you enjoyed the seriously adult pleasures of Gone Girl, you will love these ten book recommendations.
There is so much to admire about the movie version of Gone Girl – the note-perfect Rosamund Pike, the surprisingly effective Ben Affleck, and the story itself. It is rare that a book written for adults captures public imagination the way this one did. And while some of it may certainly be the big mid-book twist, it is just as likely a combination of the realistic way real adult relationships were portrayed, media news cycles dissected; and the rich supporting bench of characters who create a wonderful and fully inhabited world.
The downside? You can’t wait for the next book that grabs you in just the same way. If you’ve read Gillian Flynn’s other two books already, here are a few more suggestions, old and new. Needless to say, SPOILERS abound, so tread carefully!
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
I am glad it cannot happen twice, the fever of first love. For it is a fever, and a burden, too, whatever the poets may say
Why you should read it: Because it’s a classic! And because it shares Gone Girl’s fascination with a missing wife who assumes an afterlife of sorts after disappearing. ‘Rebecca’ is the classic ‘cool girl‘- equal parts fascinating and dangerous, and Mrs. de Winter is the mousy trespasser in her story. Also (shhh!!) Max de Winters is every bit the stodgy anti-hero that Nick Dunne is, except for some reason he’s wildly attractive to young gothic girls including a certain MBRBer!
Atonement by Ian McEwan
Wasn’t writing a kind of soaring, an achievable form of flight, of fancy, of the imagination?
Why you should read it/ see it : Because it is Ian McEwan’s best book, Keira Knightley’s best film, and also features an early appearance by the Batch. Just like with Gone Girl, the movie is a clever meditation on the power of the written word, and how the lies we tell and then write down assume a life of their own. The difference? Briony and Cecilia and Robbie- all tellers of small and big lies, are vastly more sympathetic than either Amy or Nick.
Little Children by Tom Perrotta
Memory has a way of distorting the past, of making certain events seem larger and more significant in retrospect than they ever could have been at the time they occured.
Why you should read it: My favourite aspect of Gone Girl is how seemingly perfect facades crumble the longer you stare at them. Tom Perrotta’s unflinching look at American suburbia achieves the same feat (with fewer bloodbaths); and has about the same level of slow building horror. Is Sarah, the erstwhile radical feminist now reduced to a stay at home mom, any happier than Amy? No. But the two choose remarkably different paths to acceptance and happiness, and therein lies the twist in the tale(s).
Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller
…what is romance, but a mutual pact of delusion? When the pact ends , there’s nothing left.
Why you should read it: This one is such a campy delight! The story of a beautiful young teacher who embarks upon an inappropriate affair with her student, and of the needy older teacher at school that befriends her, the books twists and turns and glorious word images make it the perfect beach read. At the centre of the novel is a relationship built on deceit and mutual grievances, where neither party understands or particularly appreciates the other. Saying any more will be spoiling the many pleasures of this tiny but perfect book
The Silent Wife by ASA Harrison
SPOILER. SPOILER. SPOILER.
Why you should read it: Do you know how at the end of Gone Girl you can’t quite decide if the book is empowering in the way it lets Amy have her win, or misogynist in the way it paints her as a sociopath with no redeeming qualities? This thriller by ASA Harrison is going to leave you just as confused about the motivations of its anti-heroine Jodi. It is no literary masterpiece, but works quite well as a wish fulfilment fantasy of sorts!
Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
“Being alone has nothing to do with how many people are around.”
Why you should read it: Don’t waste your time with the film. Read Yates’ bitter masterpiece instead, about a marriage that is crumbling from the inside, of a wife who longs to be someone better, a husband who is consumed by the Great American Dream, and a couple whose shared dreams are now buried in disappointments and recriminations. Sounds familiar?
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee
Why you should read it: This three-act play makes difficult reading (or viewing), because of the absolute cynicism with which Albee treats the dissolution of a marriage. George and Martha may no longer be able to stand the sight of each other, maybe there never really was any love in their marriage in the first place. But when the curtains fall, they only have each other for support. A truly remarkable domestic tragedy this one!
A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin
Why you should read it: A sociopathic protagonist engaging in subterfuge and disguise, who thinks a step ahead of you every single time and who wouldn’t even stop at murder to get what he wants. Someone who despise but can’t help rooting for any way. Amy Dunne or Jonathan Corliss? Fun fact: If the synopses of this book sounds familiar, its because you’ve already seen it as Baazigar. Now that’s two good reasons to read it right away!
The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
Even awful people can be polite for a few minutes,” their father told them. “Any longer than that and they revert to the bastards they really are.
Why you should read it: If your favourite part of Gone Girl was the story of Amazing Amy, and its impact on Adult Amy you are going to love The Family Fang! Buster and Annie have long been the subjects of their parents’ cons/art projects. Small wonder then that their grown up versions are programmed for failure, incapable of take-off and too deeply emotionally invested in each other. This was one of our favourite books from the last couple of years, and we can’t recommend it enough!
The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
Why you should read it: All modern-day thriller writers owe a huge debt to Patricia Highsmith for her creation of evil masterminds with complex psychosexual motives, but none more so than Gillian Flynn. Her entire oeuvre is dotted by proto-Ripleys, but Gone Girl goes a step further and creates just as nuanced a portrait of evil and its many guises as the master. Begin with the book that started this whole trend- by reading every single one of the Ripley books written by Highsmith. Revel in his glorious wickedness and remind yourself that there are worse fates than to remain in a loveless marriage for life with a partner who once tried to kill you. (Seriously, some of the misfortunes that befall unsuspecting souls in these books make the last 10 minutes of Gone Girl seem like a Happy Ending!)