review · U.S.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Three Rivers Press, 2006

2007 Steel Dagger and 2007 New Blood Dagger

Source: library copy

So I decided to read Sharp Objects after hearing and seeing so many rave reviews about Gillian Flynn’s latest book, Gone Girl.  I wasn’t sure what to expect except that the story would be disturbing, and my expectations were definitely met.  It’s a story that leaves me uneasy, and I’m not sure I’m in the mood to read more Gillian Flynn for a long while.

Sharp Objects is narrated by Camille Preaker, a crime reporter for a small Chicago paper, who returns to her hometown in southern Missouri to cover two murders of young girls.  She is a bit standoffish and closed off from other people, and as the story progresses we learn what problems she’s had in the first 10 years of her adult life and, more importantly, what her childhood did to her psyche.  Camille is not the model of journalistic ethics, but I’m not sure what reporter in a crime novel really is:  it would make for a boring story.  More interestingly, however, is how unreliable a narrator she is, primarily because she’s so in denial about her childhood and family life as a defense mechanism.  An oblivious reporter who jumps into several conflicts of interest while reporting on a series of small-town murders is not the most sympathetic choice of narrator.

What does work in this novel is the air of weirdness and eventually horror as Camille returns to her hometown for the first time in years.  Not only is her thirteen-year-old half-sister Amma an odd mixture of hostility and sweetness, but Camille’s old friends and neighbors in the town of 2,000 odd people of Wind Gap are a sordid and sad lot as well.  Also, the pacing in this book is quite good.  It’s not fast-paced at all, but it feels organic:  I didn’t feel bogged down by the investigation or its dead ends like I often do in other crime novels.  Flynn doles out the revelations bit by bit, and the story grows odder and odder.

It’s difficult to say more about this book without entering into spoiler territory, but this is definitely a book that I want to discuss more in a future post.

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6 thoughts on “Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

  1. Rebecca – Oh, this does sound like one of those books that one mulls over, and I don’t necessarily mean in a bad way. Some books are like that; they are unsettling. You make an interesting point about the unreliable narrator too. The unreliable narrator can be a very effective twist when it’s done well and it sounds as though Camille Preaker is more complex than she seems on the surface. I’ll be interested to read your other thoughts on this.

  2. Like you, I found this book rather contradictory. The journalism aspects in particular seemed unrealistic – she gets no expenses so has no option but to stay with her hated mother? I found it all a bit OTT, but it did have its compelling elements, in a weird and neurotic kind of way….very claustrophobic overall. I am still not sure if I liked it or not (or her other previous book, which I’ve also read). I had decided not to read Gone Girl, in fact, but it’s had such great reviews and is on award shortlists, that I am reconsidering.

    1. Another contradiction: her beloved editor, who knew about her cutting problem and her issues with her mother, sent her to stay with her mother anyway in pursuit of a Pulitzer prize. I guess ethical journalism makes more a boring story. I thought it was compelling too, but when I figured out what was going on by the halfway point or sooner I found it less compelling.

  3. I did not like this book at all, although it pulled me in and wouldn’t let go until the last page. But it sickened me. The main character stayed with her mother even though her mother tortured her? Of course, the plot line needed it, but it was absurd. Too much about this book I didn’t like to read another book by this author.
    Gone Girl is getting some good reviews and some not so good reviews.

    1. I’m not rushing out to read more Flynn either. For me, it felt a little too much like it was creepy for the sake of being creepy instead of being realistic at all.

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