Gillian Flynn’s “Sharp Objects”

sharp-objects-book-cover[1]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.

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2 thoughts on “Gillian Flynn’s “Sharp Objects”

  1. I did read Sharp Objects. Yes, she is a brilliant writer, but definitely has a twisted, dark mind. One of the things she said in one of her acknowledgements to her husband- “to my husband, for sleeping next to me every night, even though he knows how my brain works.” When you read her books, you know that that is no idle praise. So the prose and writing are great, and she pulls you in from start to finish, but I know what you mean about no hope. Even though the one policeman investigating the case seemed to like the protagonist, even that attraction/redeeming hope dies in the end. I agree with you- I think I would have felt better if she had just let the mother be the guilty party (murderer) instead of needing to tack on some of the murders to the daughter- 13 year olds- also. She built up to the mother’s being guilty in such a brilliant fashion, so that at the end Munchausen by proxy fit her description beautifully- why the need to top that by making the 13 year old guilty?.

    • Thank you, Beth, for your insightful opinion. I agree with everything you say. By the way, I did suspect Camille’s sister right away (she and her sidekicks were laughing during Natalie’s funeral- laughing! And there were lots of other clues.), so it was no surprise to me that she turned out to be the murderer. Still, I thought the author’s decision was over the edge. And Camille’s actions are often so very stupid, considering her intelligence, maturity, and her painful past. Plus, her vocation and present assignment. I understand that she’s “messed up” but to take drugs from her 13-year-old sister? She behaves less immaturely than her sis. Anyway… the book is highly unrealistic. The author’s main purpose seems to shock the reader by all the horrors for the sake of shocking.

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