Raw from a brief stay at a psychiatric hospital, Chicago journalist Camille Preaker is given the daunting task of returning to her tightly knit home town after the murder of a young girl and the kidnapping of another. Having been estranged from her neurotic mother and retaining little connection with her half-sister, Camille’s welcome home is more than uncomfortable. She soon finds herself identifying with the missing girls, in more ways than she finds healthy. Flynn skillfully takes the reader on a psychological thrill ride through an almost gothic southern small town and its horrible secrets.
Sharp Objects was published back in 2006 and since has been overshadowed by the 2014 bestseller and movie Gone Girl. It is an original gem that I think needs to be rectified and HBO agrees as it will be premiering as a television series in 2017. I truly enjoyed this read. Some might say I’m masochistic for doing so, and who knows if they’re right. With that in mind, there are disturbing and violent themes that some might find extremely unsettling however, Flynn deals with them tastefully. Flynn is able to handle grotesque motifs such as murder and implied rape in an organic manner that could stay with a reader for a lifetime. Camille, the main character, suffers from depression and self-harms by carving negative words onto her body. In fact, she is able to leave little exposed in order to cover up the alarming number of scars on her body. Flynn is able to make her relatable and human the majority of the book.
Also, character dynamic is always Flynn’s strong point and holds true in this book. The interaction between Camille and her mother, Adora, is chilling and speaks volumes. Much of the community’s view on women is revealed through flashbacks and the interactions with other minor characters. She is very good at maintaining the slow build of suspense in a story, and there were times I had to stop myself from flipping through to the last few pages to end the agony. In most murder mysteries there is a clear antagonist and protagonist. But, the main character herself is such a mess that she posses a threat to herself more so than any other character in the novel. As demented as it is to say, watching Camille spiral multiple times is very enthralling. The ending is equally unpleasant if not more so. I needed a drink after reading it. Most people would like to think they can tell who the killer is upon reading a murder mystery, yet I was completely floored when they were revealed. Flynn is a master of plot twists, as cliché as it sounds.
Nonetheless, there were certain points that I felt the character would monologue while reliving events for too long and it would feel like Camille was just a walking sad sack. Perhaps that’s what depression is like, but it would lose me sometimes as a reader. I do enjoy shocking themes involving crime and horrible events happening to people, nevertheless I had to put this book down for long periods of time, even days. There are vivid descriptions of animal abuse, self-harm, substance overdose and much more that I just couldn’t handle at times. Involving such concepts along with seemingly normal people made it seem almost like a jab at everyday people. Flynn sees their morals and routines as dull and poisonous at the same time. I too enjoy this idea, but it did become overwhelming at times.
There is no way to get through this book in one sitting, and if you try to do so I strongly suggest you get in contact with a therapist.
All in all, I am a lover of the dark and gritty and I know I can always count on Gillian Flynn to deliver. It is difficult to sustain that edge without seeming too wrapped up in oneself. Gone Girl was the first work that I read of hers but Sharp Objects let me know she is a reoccurring talent. This book will grip you by your soul in its icy hand and never let go. I am excited to see where they take the TV series when it finally airs.
Phoebe Strike is a 21-year-old snarky college student with a strong love of comics, good beer, dry humour, and old movies. She’s an aspiring fiction and content writer who enjoys writing humour pieces as well as slice of life. Her plan is to hone her skills in whatever writing industry she can get her hands on.