Continuing February’s month of thrillers, this week I’m reviewing Gillian Flynn’s 2006 debut Sharp Objects.
When two girls are abducted and killed in Missouri, journalist Camille Preaker is sent back to her home town to report on the crimes.
Long-haunted by a childhood tragedy and estranged from her mother for years, Camille suddenly finds herself installed once again in her family’s mansion, reacquainting herself with her distant mother and the half-sister she barely knows – a precocious 13-year-old who holds a disquieting grip on the town.
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.
SOMETIMES I THINK ILLNESS SITS INSIDE EVERY WOMAN, WAITING FOR THE RIGHT MOMENT TO BLOOM. I HAVE KNOWN SO MANY SICK WOMEN ALL MY LIFE. WOMEN WITH CHRONIC PAIN, WITH EVERY-GESTATING DISEASES. WOMEN WITH CONDITIONS. MEN, SURE, THEY HAVE BONE SNAPS, THEY HAVE BACKACHES, THEY HAVE A SURGERY OR TWO, YANK OUT A TONSIL, INSERT A SHINY PLASTIC HIP. WOMEN GET CONSUMED. NOT SURPRISING, CONSIDERING THE SHEER AMOUNT OF TRAFFIC A WOMAN’S BODY EXPERIENCES. TAMPONS AND SPECULUMS. COCKS, FINGERS, VIBRATORS AND MORE, BETWEEN THE LEGS, FROM BEHIND, IN THE MOUTH. MEN LOVE TO PUT THINGS INSIDE WOMEN, DON’T THEY? CUCUMBERS AND BANANAS AND BOTTLES, A STRING OF PEARLS, A MAGIC MARKER, A FIST. ONCE A GUY WANTED TO WEDGE A WALKIE-TALKIE INSIDE OF ME. I DECLINED.
Gillian Flynn just does not disappoint.
To me, Sharp Objects was a little bit of a slow burner. I wasn’t as immediately hooked as I had been when reading Gone Girl and Dark Places, but it definitely got more engrossing as it when on and picked up more momentum.
Personally, I found this the most disturbing of the three novels by Flynn that I have read. There’s something quite unsettling about exploring an unhealthy and (quite literally) sickening approach to motherhood. It tests the caring and loving image that we tend to associate when we think of mothers and I found myself being both fascinated and distressed by Flynn’s chilling characterisation of Adora and her struggle with Munchausen syndrome by proxy. Every time she was mentioned in the novel or spoke, I felt so on edge. Flynn gave me the same feeling with Amma who I took an instant disliking to. Flynn makes each and every character in Sharp Objects so distinct and it differs from a typical ‘whodunnit’ mystery in the sense that you can very quickly narrow it down to just who the culprit is.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the ‘small-town filled with secrets’ setting. As someone who has read, and through this month will be reading, a lot of thrillers it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the mystery and get confused amongst an endless character list. Flynn kept it simple, yet effective. It was a lot more intimate and for such a short novel at around 300 pages, I appreciated that as it let me get to know these characters a bit more. One character that did leave me feeling a little disappointed was Richard. I can see why he would be horrified by what Camille has done to herself, but given their interactions over the course of the book, I would’ve thought that he would’ve at least been a bit more understanding or we’d have had a proper ending for those two as the romantic tension was rife throughout Sharp Objects. I felt like the way it ended was a little abrupt.
Psychologically, Sharp Objects revolves largely around the theme of abuse. More specifically, how people deal with abuse and their different coping mechanisms. Camille literally inflicts pain on herself, cutting words into her skin. While some choose to lash out at others.
Like I said, Sharp Objects is definitely a lot more slow paced than Gone Girl and Dark Places, but it certainly delivers in the last few chapters. There’s not a standard ‘plot twist’ of sorts, but the revelation is shocking and twisted enough to satisfy.
Much like with the other Gillian Flynn novels, I wouldn’t pick them up if you’re squeamish. Nonetheless, Sharp Objects was a truly terrifying, yet terrific read. Dark doesn’t even begin to describe it! Just don’t do what I initially did and rule it out as a bit rubbish because it starts off quite slow because these murderers go far deeper and are much more intense than they seem on the surface.