“I am a cutter, you see. Also a snipper, a slicer, a carver, a jabber. I am a very special case. I have a purpose. My skin, you see, screams. It’s covered with words – cook, cupcake, kitty, curls – as if a knife-wielding first-grader learned to write on my flesh. I sometimes, but only sometimes, laugh. Getting out of the bath and seeing, out of the corner of my eye, down the side of a leg: babydoll. Pull on a sweater and, in a flash of my wrist: harmful. Why these words? Thousands of hours of therapy have yielded a few ideas from the good doctors.”
From the author of Gone Girl, Sharp Objects is Gillian Flynn‘s 2006 debut novel which follows Camille Preaker, a newspaper journalist who must return to her hometown of Missouri to report on a series of brutal murders when two young girls are abducted and killed. Long-haunted by her troubled childhood and fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, Camille suddenly finds herself installed once again in her family’s mansion, reacquainting herself with her neurotic and distant mother and the half-sister she barely knows, a precocious yet beautiful 13-year-old who holds a disquieting grip on the town. As Camille works to uncover the truth about these violent crimes, she finds herself identifying with the young victims a bit too strongly as she is also forced to face the psychological puzzle that is her own past.
Thrillers about messed up females aren’t anything new. But for me, Gillian Flynn is one of two authors that got me into the genre and I will always read her work. After reading and loving Gone Girl, I immediately had to purchase all of her other books and she hasn’t failed to disappoint me yet. Sharp Objects is no different.
Although Flynn again uses a female point of view, Sharp Objects still feels very different to her follow-up books in that it is much more raw. Most of Flynn’s characters have gone through traumatic experiences which have impacted them in some way, but Camille’s definitely had the worst of it, and there’s still a lot more to come.
Camille is also a journalist, so there’s much more of a focus on her trying to piece together a crime in her small town. She also has the skills to do it, as she attempts to prove to her old school friends and family that she has come out of the psych hospital and turned her life around.
It’s not a particularly gory novel and none of the descriptions are too extreme to read, but details of Camille carving words into her flesh that cover every inch of her body are frequent. It’s not shocking, but it’s certainly effective.
And then, of course, there are the more sexual scenes which Flynn never shies away from. The way she makes a book feel both sexy and messed up is definitely one of her more fine-tuned qualities, as it is this mix of such contrasting emotions that will keep you so gripped by her writing.
Sharp Objects is also the best examples of Flynn exploring a female character yet. Camille has been avoiding her home town for good reasons: mostly, her mother and her new step-family that she barely knows. As Camille’s fragile mind is dragged deeper into her family’s melodramas, she fights to keep her head above water.
She’s struggled in the past and her hometown has put her right back on the edge, but she certainly isn’t a weak character by any means. She’s no victim, despite how her upbringing has tried to turn her into one, and it’s time for her to finally prove that. However, she doesn’t know the worst of it.
It’s definitely a twisted and psychological read, both emotionally and in the way that it develops, and it explores many dark themes that get under your skin with its elements of horror. It’s hard not to say any more without spoiling the major twist, which is one of the best that I have read in a long time, but there’s so much more to this story than you would have expected.
Sharp Objects has recently been made into a Sky Atlantic TV series starring Amy Adams which you can watch the trailer for below: