Review: Sharp Objects, Gillian Flynn

Project: Read Gillian Flynn’s Books In Order is now one-third complete! Huzzah! Now I just have Dark Places and Gone Girl to go, and I already own one of those. So my project is closer to being, like, three-sevenths complete. It may be some time yet before I get to read Dark Places. I am eleventh of fourteen on the holds list for that one. It’ll happen! Just not right away. I’ll have plenty of time to think about Gillian Flynn in between reading her first and second books. If God truly loves me He’ll send me Dark Places right in time for my plane flight home later this month.

CHRISTMASSSSSSSSSS.

Y’all, Christmas is coming. I have all my gifts picked out and nearly all of them are purchased. That is the way that I roll. I hope you are similarly prepared. You can never be overprepared for Christmas, although you can have the thing where you think of a perfecter present on Christmas Eve but it’s much too late because you bought that person’s gift weeks ago already.

Amazon’s summary of Sharp Objects says this: 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. 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.

Camille’s particular flavor of dysfunction was something I loved about the books. Following the death of her sister in childhood, she became a cutter, and she carved words into her skin. Throughout the book she talks about what words are carved where, and sometimes what significance they had to her. This wasn’t something I’d seen before and as a big fan of words I thought it was a really interesting, inventive way to show us how messed up she has been by her past. Balancing this out is her warm and loving relationship with her boss and her boss’s wife — this is something I’ve seen before but it was very sweet anyway.

Another thing Flynn does superbly is to convey Camille’s claustrophobia at finding herself back in her childhood home. The town itself is very small, which can work to Camille’s advantage as she tries to learn more about the dead girls, but which also means that people remember her and her family and the person she was in high school. It made me feel that she was always being watched, which was nicely creepy. Then as well, her screwed-up relationship with her mother, who plainly thinks that the wrong daughter died, is portrayed very vividly. Camille is not even allowed to talk about the work she’s doing in town, because it’s too upsetting for her mother.

Camille has a much younger half-sister called Amma, who is thirteen (I believe) in the action of the novel. She reminds me of Pearl Prynne. That’s not really anything. I just wanted to let you know. Amma is basically Pearl Prynne to me, and Pearl Prynne remains the most irritating fictional child I can ever remember. However, it has been almost a decade since I read The Scarlet Letter, and maybe Pearl Prynne was not that bad after all.

(I think she probably was though.)

Sharp Objects is perhaps closer to a psychological thriller than a proper mystery. I liked that about it. It’s not really about the girls who are murdered, although there are murdered girls and at the end you do find out whodunnit. Instead the arc of the book is about Camille being broken down once again by a past she barely managed to get away from the first time. Flynn’s artistry in setting up this arc is wonderful, and it fits into the main mystery in an interesting, unexpected way.

Plus, if I may be allowed a slightly spoilery remark, from which you should avert your eyes if you fear being spoiled in the slightest, it was really, really refreshing to read a book where the motive for killing little girls wasn’t sex. That was my main reservation going into the book — there are just a lot of books about girls being killed, you know? — and I felt weirdly grateful to Gillian Flynn for taking the plot in a whole other direction.

So there we go. Next up, Dark Places. I am excited for Gone Girl and have high hopes that I can make that happen at Christmastime.

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9 thoughts on “Review: Sharp Objects, Gillian Flynn

  1. Wow, Gilliam Flynn sounds like the perfect plane flight read. This is exactly the kind of book I need for a venture cross-country (but possibly at no other time). Does Amma’s strange name have any significance? Because Gilliam Flynn does not sound like the woman to toss a strange name in for no purpose.

    Also: Pearl Prynne. *blows raspberry*

    • Oh, she would be an excellent plane read. Amma’s name — mmmm, I don’t know what sort of significance it can be said to have. You read it and tell me what you think.

  2. I’ve now read all three of her books and this one was my least favorite. And I really liked it! Which goes to show you what a treat you’re in for with the other two books. 🙂

  3. It always sounds weird to me to say I enjoyed this one (since it is such a dark book) but I really did. And I’ve been meaning to read more by this author every since then! I really, really want to read Dark Places so maybe I will make that a goal in 2013 🙂 I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed this one as well!

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