This morning I finished Sharp Objects, Gillian Flynn’s first novel, which I picked up after reading her latest book Gone Girl.
Another psychologically disturbing story, Sharp Objects focuses on the book’s narrator Camille Preaker, a rookie reporter from a small daily paper in Chicago who is sent to her hometown in rural Missouri to write about the recent murders of two adolescent girls. Camille spends time with her messed up, estranged family—her histrionic mother Adora, withdrawn stepfather Alan, and emotionally volatile teenage half-sister Amma—and meets up with other people from her past while investigating the murders. In order to discover the details of these recent brutal killings, Camille must face the obstacle of coming to terms with her own troubled past.
I liked Gone Girl better than Sharp Objects, but this one is not without its merits. It is a darkly gripping novel that delves deep into Camille’s damaged psyche without pleading for the reader’s sympathy. She is a complicated woman, fraught with despair and self-loathing, and going home only exacerbates these feelings. Camille has an edge to her, and struggles to overcome her personal hell after years of self-mutilation, inside and out from alcoholism and cutting. I thought Flynn having Camille feel a sensation of specific words carved into her skin “lighting up” or throbbing in certain situations to be a nice touch. There are moments I thought Camille really kicked some ass, and others where I was shocked at her foolish behavior and weakness. But that’s part of what makes her an interesting protagonist, an anti-hero.
Other characters display similarly shocking behavior as well, especially Adora and Amma. Flynn does a great job of creating characters (especially women) who are deeply flawed and unlikable, with weird idiosyncrasies that help drive the story. The men in Sharp Objects are largely just filler, except for the hot-shot Kansas City detective Richard and one of the murdered girls’ mourning older brother John. Most of the women in the book—Camille’s former high school friends, Adora’s bored-housewife friends, and Amma’s cliquey group—range from overly sensitive to fairly catty to downright nasty.
I didn’t have as much trouble with the incomplete sentences as some other readers—it just struck me as Camille not caring about living her life fully, so why bother? Most of these incomplete sentences were internal thoughts, anyway. The writing style is stark but does allow for a good amount of three-dimensional characters to come through. I felt the pacing of Sharp Objects was off just a bit, though—the build-up was unhurried yet suspenseful and the climax came at the right point but the conclusion following that was short and wrapped up too quickly. Although, I must admit, I am not a regular reader of mystery-thrillers so I’m not sure if that’s normal. I didn’t feel this way about Gone Girl, at least.
Overall, I liked Sharp Objects. It was a good, thought-provoking quick read… not exactly “light” but would have been great for a plane ride or maybe as an audiobook on a long drive. It’s a good book for people who enjoy psychological crime thrillers, and/or complex, troubled female leads. I’m sure I will end up reading Flynn’s second book Dark Places, definitely!
Sharp Objects is the 30th book I have read this year, which meets my goal for 2012! At the end of this year I’ll write a post reflecting back on my reading in 2012. I am thinking about trying the 30 Day Book Challenge in December, too.
Read from October 28 to November 3, 2012.