Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Book Review: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Title: Sharp Objects
Author: Gillian Flynn
Publisher: Shaye Areheart Books
Publication Date: September 26, 2006
Source: personal purchase

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

WICKED above her hipbone, GIRL across her heart 
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.

NASTY on her kneecap, BABYDOLL on her leg 
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.

HARMFUL on her wrist, WHORE on her ankle 
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.

My Review:

My first "30 before 35" book already!  I knew that giving myself a reading challenge would push me to finally get to a few of those novels...

Remember how hard I crushed on Gone Girl last year?  If I love something enough to describe it with an atomic bomb GIF, it must be pretty okay.  And it made me want to read everything Flynn had written prior.  But, as per usual, I got distracted and never managed to pick up one of her other novels...until now.

Sharp Objects is Flynn's first book, and I went into it with high expectations.  How could I not, after loving Gone Girl so much?  This would normally be a recipe for disaster (my high reading expectations are rarely met), but in this case, Flynn delivered yet again.

The description of this novel made me feel like this was going to be your average "whodunit".  Camille isn't a cop, but as a roving reporter and native to the town where these murders of young girls are occurring, she's in a unique position to uncover the truth.  However, I quickly realized that this was more than an average mystery.  In the first quarter of the book, I found myself feeling...generally unsettled.  You are nagged by the constant sense that there is something "off" about the entire scenario.  Something's not right with the town...with Camille's family...and with Camille herself.  Flynn has a way of weaving in tiny details and snippets of conversation to give you this foreboding sensation, even as the action of the plot seems to be  moving along otherwise normally.  This is one of the things I absolutely adore about her writing.  She has a way of creating feelings of shock, dread, and horror in a very subtle way, something that I think a lot of thriller writers fail to do.  They go for the gusto with big plot reveals and grotesque murder scenes, whereas Flynn's pull comes from the mounting sense of unease that unfolds in the narrative.

After reading Gone Girl, I went into Sharp Objects expecting a killer ending.  I was not disappointed!  Just when I thought the final loose end had been tied up, Flynn turned the conclusion on its head and left me with an awful lot to process.  I ended up re-reading the last 5% of the book just to make sure I caught up with everything that happened.  I was happy for this, because up until that last part, I felt like the ending had come together a little too...clinically, for lack of a better word.  But the final twist gave it a macabre finale that fit the rest of the novel perfectly.

You guys, I almost don't want to read Gillian Flynn's other novel, Dark Places.  Because that will mean I read all of her stuff and I have to wait around for her to write something else.  GAH.  I loved this book.  LOVED.

Have you read Flynn's two lesser-known novels?  What did you think?


  1. Well hell's bells. I'd better get to this one! I had such a great time with Gone Girl. It was the kind of book that I spoke aloud to ;)

    Way to go on reading one of the books from your list already!

    1. Thanks! If I knew I only needed to make a list to kick myself in the butt, I would have done it a long time ago...

  2. I also really enjoyed Sharp Objects. I also love Flynn's ability to create that quiet, slow-build kind of horror. It takes real talent to do that effectively. I also read Dark Places earlier this year and while I don't remember it really well because at the time I read it I was sleep deprived with a newborn, I think it was probably my least favorite of the three. Still good, though. I can't wait to see what Flynn comes up with next!

    1. Thanks for sharing your reaction to Dark Places...I'll let you know what I think when I get around to it!

  3. Dark Places is the only book of hers I've read, and I didn't care for it. It was GOOD, from an objective standpoint (or as objective as judging books can get), but as a personal reading experience, I just didn't enjoy it. But I'm sure you'll find it to be great. I'm definitely in the minority when it comes to my feelings on Gillian Flynn.

    1. It sounds like Dark Places is getting the lowest reviews of the three, so far...I wonder if you'd like any of her others better? I'll let you know how I think it compares when I get around to it!

    2. I may eventually try Gone Girl (especially since they're making a movie of it) but it's definitely not a priority.

  4. I really need to read this. Gone Girl blew me away and I've heard a lot of good tings about this, as well.

    Kate @ Ex Libris

    1. I hope you get a chance to soon!

  5. I've read nothing by Flynn. I've heard so much about Gone Girl, that that's probably where I'll start. But this one sounds good, too!

    1. Ooooh give her a try! I'd love to hear your reaction!

  6. I haven't read either of these, but I'm glad you liked this one as much as the first! I'm so bad at picking up more books by authors I like that I think I'm going to look for some sort of challenge for that next year so I'll focus on doing it more :)

    1. I am so bad at that too! I think I did see someone doing a challenge like that this year...I'll let you know if I find it!

  7. I have been meaning to read the other Flynns since I loved Gone Girl and I just haven't done it yet. Shame on me!

    1. I hope you get a chance to soon! Totally worthsies.

  8. Glad to hear this was good! It's really great that having loved Gone Girl, Flynn's debut is just as good. You kind of wonder why it took so long!

    1. I know! I find it interesting that Gone Girl made such a splash, and this one didn't. Perhaps because it was done by a smaller publisher? Not sure.

  9. I read this.

    Thanks to readingitforward.com, SHARP OBJECTS is the second book by Gillian Flynn that I've read. On the basis of having now read both this book and GONE GIRL, it appears to me that Flynn likes deeply flawed characters with psychological problems who have dysfunctional families. In SHARP OBJECTS, it seems EVERY character has flaws and at least one phychological problem. But the main character, Camille Preaker, beats them all.

    Preaker comes back to the small town where she grew up to report on a double murder there for the Chicago newspaper she works for. It seems everything she does involves alcohol. She drinks so much that it is unbelievable she can accomplish her investigative reporting duties. But investigate she does, always one step behind her policeman friend, Richard. And boy does she drink all the while!

    But the drinking isn't as bad as the cutting, I guess.

    While visiting her home town, Preaker stays with her mother, stepfather, and 13-year-old half sister. Here lies SHARP OBJECT's greatest mystery. It is Flynn's trick to make you make you feel undecided about these people throughout the book. Although it's easy to see they're dysfunctional, you won't know their true selves until the end. Please don't let any other book review tell you more about them and spoil that for you.

    That's as close to story summary as you'll get from me. I won't spoil it for you, as so many book reviews on the Internet have done to me.

    Since I wrote this review, I've read DARK OBJECTS, which is a much better book, better in some ways than GONE GIRL.

    1. Thanks for sharing your review. I agree that all of the characters are flawed in this novel...something that definitely adds to the dark tone of the whole thing. I'm interested to read Dark Places after hearing you say that you felt it was better in some ways.

  10. I totally agree with your description of the feeling of "unease." The book was so.... dark. I usually enjoy those types of books, but this one just made me feel... depressed. I have to give credit to the author to provoke those feelings in me.

    1. It is rather depressing! There is really no good coming out of this novel...even the ending, though it finds some resolve, is rather sad in many ways.

  11. I read this book back when it first came out and absolutely fell in love with her writing. Now all I need to do is get my butt into gear and read Gone Girl!

    1. Ah, one of the rare ones who read this and not Gone Girl! Would love to hear what you think when you get to it!

  12. Dark Places was so good!!! It's worth reading. Sharp Objects was her worst!

    -Rebecca @ Love at First Book

    1. Good to know! I'm hoping I love Dark Places if everyone says its better than this one.

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