Title: Sharp Objects
Author: Gillian Flynn
Genre: Thriller, Crime, Mystery
My rating: ★★★★☆
WICKED above her hipbone, GIRL across her heart. Words are like a road map to reporter Camille Preaker’s troubled past. Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, Camille’s first assignment from the second-rate daily paper where she works brings her reluctantly back to her hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls.
NASTY on her kneecap, BABYDOLL on her leg. Since she left town eight years ago, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed again in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille is haunted by the childhood tragedy she has spent her whole life trying to cut from her memory.
HARMFUL on her wrist, WHORE on her ankle. As Camille works to uncover the truth about these violent crimes, she finds herself identifying with the young victims — a bit too strongly. Clues keep leading to dead ends, forcing Camille to unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past to get at the story. Dogged by her own demons, Camille will have to confront what happened to her years before if she wants to survive this homecoming.
With its taut, crafted writing, Sharp Objects is addictive, haunting, and unforgettable.
General Thoughts | Non-Spoiler
This is another borrowed edition from my bestie Cait (she’s knocking it out the park with these recommendations recently). Having already raced through Gone Girl, I had extremely high hopes, and again, I wasn’t disappointed. I think it’s clear that this is Flynn’s debut novel in terms of the plot, because her ability to craft storylines has developed massively between this and Gone Girl, but it’s her creation of characters, narrative and atmosphere that is most dominating and impressive. I like the more I read, the further I was being folded into the book, and when I finished, I had to sort of catch my breath, like I’d had my head held underwater. The last line gave me chills. It’s not perfect, but it may as well be for how much I enjoyed reading it.
Full Review | Contains Spoilers
I read in a Goodreads review that everything about this book is unhealthy, and I wholeheartedly agree with that statement. It’s all a bit disturbing to read, and something about it made me feel slightly unwell; but that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it. From the word go I felt like I was part of the story, and that’s because Flynn does not muck about when it comes to introductions and niceties. Five pages in, and you’re already being informed that the story revolves around the murder and mutilation of little girls — pretty full on, definitely, but you know exactly what you’re getting into. Even though Flynn makes the theme very clear from the beginning, it’s not overwhelming or crass, and you want to carry on reading in spite of the unpleasantries.
That being said, this novel isn’t as believable as Gone Girl (I promise I’m not going to make comparisons all the way through the review, but given its success, it’s hard not to mention it!). Gone Girl is more subtly and intricately woven, whereas Sharp Objects is riddled through with exaggeration, from Adora’s psych-horror-esque looming presence to the severity of Camille’s self-harming habit. I actually kind of liked the excess. For me it made the whole story world more accessible, and everything was more vivid. I could feel the dry heat and smell the odour of the pig farm blowing over. It sort reminded me of the setting of To Kill A Mockingbird, which was a great setting for me to read, so that’s a massive plus.
I’m struggling to work out my feelings towards Camille’s half-sister Amma. In comparison to how I was at thirteen (and how most thirteen year old girls are, actually), she was extremely mature for her years in very indecent ways, her sex life, drinking and drug habits being just a few. She’s very similar in those respects to Camille when she was her age, which Camille recognises, and honestly I found it very implausible for the majority of the novel, until towards the end Camille says she realises just how young the age of thirteen is. Clearly it’s done on purpose, so I accepted it as part of the machinations of the story, but I still found it a little too young to be plausible. To be honest, it was a little revolting. On the other side of the coin, she is also extremely young. At first we think this is just a farce for Adora’s sake, but at the end particularly I thought maybe it’s something slightly more psychological to do with Adora’s illness and Amma’s living in Marian’s shadow. The novel doesn’t touch on it psychologically, which I’m glad about, but it would have been interesting to have that explored.
I didn’t really like any of the characters. I felt a lot of pity for Camille and I was kind of rooting for her to do well, but at the end I was very glad that it didn’t all work out like a fairy-tale; she ends up being cared for by Mr and Mrs Curry, receiving the sort of familial care she’s been craving for so long, which is actually the best thing for her. I physically hated Adora. Reading about her made my skin crawl from the very beginning and it only got worse from there, so she was a very well-written character. Sick, but well-written. I would have liked to learn more about her illness, or at least have a bit more context, but that’s my only complaint.
In terms of plot, it was a little predictable, but at the same time it did keep me guessing. I’m not sure how those two facts can be true simultaneously, but apparently they can! I groaned a little bit when the romance between Richard and Camille occurred, but then again, was it romance? Or was it just sex, to reinforce the feeling of unwellnes? The latter, I think. Also, when Adora was charged with the murders of Natalie and Ann, something didn’t seem quite right; I’d thought it was Amma from about the halfway point, but I was a little disappointed when I turned out to be right. I guess I just wished I hadn’t guessed so easily! It wouldn’t have worked any other way though, and I suppose I shouldn’t have been so quick to doubt her because of her age when every other aspect of her personality was also overly mature.
Overall, I reeeeeeally liked this, even if it did disturb me a little! It’s such a good book to give you the reading book, and I absolutely ploughed through it, enjoying every page. I’m itching to read Dark Places now!
Have you read Sharp Objects? What did you think?