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How 'Gone Girl' hold up 10 years later, according to a book critic


And we're going to spend the next few minutes talking about a book that opens with these lines. (Reading) When I think of my wife, I always think of her head, the shape of it to begin with. The very first time I saw her, it was the back of the head I saw. And there was something lovely about it, the angles of it, like a shiny hard corn kernel or a riverbed fossil.

Recognize that? If so, you might have been like me - like millions of readers, actually - back in the summer of 2012 who stayed up all night reading "Gone Girl." Gillian Flynn's novel sold a bazillion copies. It upended the publishing industry. In an essay for Esquire, Maris Kreizman argues that to this day, "Gone Girl" casts a long shadow over the psychological thriller market. Kreizman also asks, 10 years on, does it hold up? Maris Kreizman, welcome.

MARIS KREIZMAN: Hi. Thanks for having me.

KELLY: All right. For those who haven't read the book or who haven't read it in 10 years, very quick reminder of the characters and the plot.

KREIZMAN: Yeah. It's a husband and wife, kind of a he-said-she-said. They each alternate chapters, and the wife goes missing.

KELLY: Why was it so revolutionary?

KREIZMAN: I just remember halfway through the book, you get to this audacious plot twist that kind of blows up everything that came before, and it was shocking. The success of "Gone Girl" kind of kicked off this boom in books that were kind of for fans of "Gone Girl." And that kind of became a shorthand for a very specific kind of psychological thriller in which perhaps the heroine is more of an antiheroine, which is very exciting, who is likely to be unreliable. And readers are primed to try to decide what is really happening.

KELLY: The antiheroine meaning you may not like her, but...


KELLY: You can't stop turning the pages to figure out what happened, so you are totally invested in her.

KREIZMAN: Absolutely. She is not a perfect victim, nor is she a perfect perpetrator, if that's what the case may be.

KELLY: So here we are, a decade on. How long had it been since you read "Gone Girl"? Had it been a decade since you'd picked it up?

KREIZMAN: It had been more than a decade. And I had, of course, seen the movie as well that came out in 2014. But I was nervous going back, and I'm happy to tell you that it really does hold up on so many different levels. The plotting and the pacing are spectacular. The writing - in EW, Stephen King would say that Flynn's prose is Franzen-like.

KELLY: Jonathan Franzen, the novelist, yeah - high praise. Any bits that don't hold up?

KREIZMAN: I think the only thing - and it's maybe one of the most famous speeches from the book doesn't hold up. And that's the cool girl theory.

KELLY: This is Amy's theory. Yeah. Explain it.

KREIZMAN: Yes. She thinks that women have to constantly pretend to be more laidback and bro-y (ph) than they actually are in order to impress men. And, yes, that's still true. But, wow, does that feeling feel quaint in a world after grab-them-by-the-you-know-what and the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh. And so I think there's - I hope Amy is just the beginning. There's so much more room for well-rounded antiheroines in commercial literature.

KELLY: I will look forward to reading those. And I'm happy to report it had been a decade since I picked it up, so long that I'd forgotten about the big, audacious plot twist in the middle of the book. And I started rereading over the weekend and was hooked once again, staying up into the wee hours.

KREIZMAN: Absolutely.

KELLY: We've been speaking with Maris Kreizman. Her essay for Esquire magazine is headlined "The Legacy Of Gone Girl." Thank you.

KREIZMAN: Thank you.


Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.
Taylor Hutchison
Justine Kenin
Justine Kenin is an editor on All Things Considered. She joined NPR in 1999 as an intern. Nothing makes her happier than getting a book in the right reader's hands – most especially her own.