People who have read Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl tend to have opinions about Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. And I mean OPINIONS. Loved the first half, hated the second. Loved her, hated him. Can’t believe they cast Ben Affleck in the movie. And so on.
Personally, I was a fan. Flynn’s approach to the mystery genre was weird and interesting and unpredictable and sometimes uncomfortable. I can get down with that. Which is why I’d been looking forward to reading her first novel, Sharp Objects.
Sharp Objects homes in on the same creepy vibe as Gone Girl, centered on characters who seem just a touch shy of believable, but interesting all the same. The novel focuses on bottom-tier Chicago reporter Camille Preaker, who is assigned to write about a series of murders in her small hometown. Spending time at home is trouble for Camille, who must face her passive-aggressive hypochondriac mother, her 13-year-old half-sister (think Regina George meets Satan) and a slew of other characters from her not-so-great childhood. Truth be told, Camille is perhaps not entirely in her right mind, having recently spent some time in a mental institution.
Sharp Objects is a fun read, sort of like a Shirley Jackson story drawn out over an extra 200 pages. It’s not as artfully executed as Gone Girl (and if you disliked GG, maybe best to avoid this one) but it’s still weird and bleak, and doesn’t suffer for lacking the kind of big-picture commentary seen in GG. Even though Camille is a reporter, this isn’t really a story about how the media covers crime. It’s a story about a girl and her family, and how trying to figure out one thing can put everything else in perspective (thanks, murders!)
If you’re in the market for rich and well-developed characters, the kind that remind you of real people in real life, this is not the book for you. Likewise a nuanced and intricately concocted whodunit or even, if I’m being honest, a particularly well-executed central plot twist. Still, I found myself getting past Sharp Objects’ many imperfections; I became engrossed in spite of them. Flynn’s first novel is a perfect quickie for the week of Halloween; not because there are ghosts or monsters, but because sometimes people are dark enough all on their own.
TITLE: Sharp Objects
AUTHOR: Gillian Flynn
ALSO WROTE: Gone Girl, Dark Places
SORTA LIKE: Shirley Jackson meets Susanna Moore
FIRST LINE: “My sweater was new, stinging red and ugly.”