I recently blogged about Gillian Flynn’s psychological thriller Gone Girl, which I called “brilliant” (because of its prose and themes) and “shocking” (because of its ending, highly dissatisfactory for me), and now I’d like to express my opinion on her first novel, Sharp Objects, published in 2006.
Camille Preaker, a newspaper reporter from Chicago, is assigned to write a story about the disappearance of two preteen girls in a little town in Missouri. She dreads this assignment because this happens to be her hometown, which she has been avoiding for a decade.
Needless to say that once she arrives there, she faces a lot of challenges both on professional and personal levels. In order to write a story, she has to unravel the mystery of the murders, but she can hardly function in her former claustrophobic home because she is assaulted by painful memories of growing up in her highly dysfunctional family, and of her own “crazy” behavior as a teen. Piece by piece, the truth about Camille herself and her family secrets are coming out.
The novel is so dark I felt I would suffocate from all the terror depicted in it. The author seemed to have thrown every horror possible—alcoholism, violence, child abuse, self-abuse, animal abuse, bullying, murder—into her narrative, to disturb the reader on purpose. In fiction, just like in real life, any one of the above would be enough to scar a person for life. To have all of that is not only excessive, but unrealistic. Furthermore, all the characters, both primary and secondary, are highly unsympathetic.
Despite the disappointing ending in Gone Girl (Flynn’s third novel), I hoped that Sharp Objects (her debut) would end on an uplifting note. After all, this is what we as readers (most of us, that is) expect to see in fiction, knowing that in real life it often is not so. Unfortunately, in this book there is no relief, no hope, and no redemption.
I must say that as much as I admire Gillian Flynn’s literary talent, reading two books out of her three is enough for me. I wish her a long and successful career and hope, perhaps selfishly, that she includes something positive or uplifting in her future work.