Summary, no spoilers.
This is the story of Camille Preaker, who works as a reporter for a newspaper in Chicago. She has been assigned to cover the story of a possible child serial killer in a small town in Missouri. She was given this story mainly because this small town happens to be her hometown.
We know that Camille is a physically beautiful, but very troubled young woman. We know that she does not want to go home, and throughout the course of this disturbing novel we find out why.
I found this to be a very interesting story, and a page-turner which is high compliment. This book does an excellent job of showing the repercussions of child abuse, and what life is like in a small town.
The only reason this book did not get 5 stars is the mystery aspect. I cannot say more without a spoiler, but I found that part of the resolution improbable for a variety of reasons.
Still, this is a suspenseful, *different* book, and I think that the character of Camille Preaker will stay with me for a long time. I would definitely give Gillian Flynn another try.
on October 16, 2006
One gripe I have about most thrillers is that the plot is all-important, and the characters end up so dull -- interchangeable, really. Not so with Camille in Sharp Objects! She's an incredibly-flawed and fragile character who I'm sure will haunt me for a long time, and whom I'll be reminded of sometimes when I see a certain type of person on the street.
I found this book to be an emotional experience because the deeper I got into Camille's world and the more I learned her personal story, the more I realized that her discovery of who the murderer was would have the potential to absolutely destroy her -- and she's someone who, by all rights, really should have hit bottom by now.
A short, terse book you won't soon forget.
When men fight, according to first novelist Gillian Flynn, they tend to bludgeon one another in blunt contests of strength, like good-natured warriors facing off in an athletic contest. Women fight in a much nastier fashion, she asserts, clawing, biting and using whatever other sharp objects are available to achieve domination over their female rivals. If you're willing to buy into Flynn's scathing portrayal of the so-called gentler sex, you'll surely be sucked into this dark mystery/thriller.
Camille Preaker, a reporter for an obscure Chicago newspaper, is assigned to investigate the recent murders of two young girls in her claustrophobic Missouri hometown. Besides overcoming the natural wariness the townsfolk exhibit toward a nosy journalist, Camille must face down her dysfunctional family - a controlling mother, distant step-father and a disturbed, thirteen-year-old step-sister whose catty group of friends makes the "Mean Girls" crowd look like a troup of Brownies. The closer Camille gets to cracking this grisly mystery, the harder she struggles to keep her horde of inner demons at bay and the more she begins to fear for her own safety.
If judged purely by the intensity of its suspense and page-turning quotient, "Sharp Objects" would easily merit five stars. Flynn taps into the psychological horror generated by a twisted family in a way that electrifies the narrative, reminding me of Dean Koontz in that regard. I had trouble, though, accepting the unlikely logistics behind the crimes and found certain characters to be so over-the-top as to strain credibility. These quibbles aside, Gillian Flynn already has mastered a fast-paced and hard-boiled writing style that's perfectly suited for the suspense genre, and she has created a fascinating heroine who could form the centerpiece for a winning series.
-Kevin Joseph, author of "The Champion Maker"
on December 9, 2011
I love a good psychological thriller with disturbingly flawed characters and this book did not disappoint. The main character is a woman struggling to make a life for herself, fleeing her childhood and really, fleeing her mother when she is sent back to her home town as an investigative reporter. She is tasked to report on the gruesome murders of two pre-teen girls, but in the process she gets put right back in the middle of her messed up family dynamics, her small town's social structure, and a potential romance.
Ms. Flynn nails perfectly small Midwest town life. A quote in her description of small town life,
"Like all rural towns, Wind Gap has an obsession with machinery. Most homes own a car and a half for every occupant, plus boats, Jet Skis, scooters, tractors, and among the elite of Wind Gap, golf cars, which younger kids without licenses use to whip around town."
Ms. Flynn makes some disturbing observations about parenting and family life - and ties them in to premature death:
As to the death of a young girl, "it's the only way to truly keep your child. Kids grow up, they forge more potent allegiances. They find a spouse or a lover. They will not be buried with you. The Keenes, however will remain the purest form of family. Underground."
The situations described in this book are exceptional, but she breaks the image of small rural life as being ideal. Terrifying violence and dysfunction lurks beneath the surface and I have to say, she nailed it in terms of describing my small rural home town. As Flynn writes, the idealic quality of small towns is false. A question is - should people go home once they have fled extreme unhappiness? Can they go home and survive it emotionally? Going home almost undoes Camille and as the story is told the readers see from a disturbing first person angle, Camille's personal psychological problems and the extent of her damage. It was terrifying to read about, but I could not put the book down.
A truly horrifying image of the protagonist's mother: (view spoiler)[ "I remember my mother, alone in the living room, staring at the child almost lasciviously. She pressed her lips hard against the baby's apple slice of a cheek. Then she opened her mouth just slightly, took a tiny bit of flesh between her teeth, and gave it a little bite." (hide spoiler)]
A question I had was, what was Ms. Flynn's message in this? Small rural towns are messed up? Family dynamics can really screw people up? Old school social hierarchies breed disturbing people? I did find it interesting that the men in this story, save one, are thoroughly disappointing and that the evil, cruel and shallow women are images of beauty and physically were ultra feminine in terms of how our society defines such things. The violence that happens to women and girls happens on the brink of girls becoming women, and the things done to them (view spoiler)[ shaving the girls legs, fixing their hair, painting their nails (hide spoiler)] are superficial ways femininity have has been defined in our modern culture. And finally, the evil doers (view spoiler)[ are the ultra beautiful, the ultra coiffed, and the ultra physical female ideals (hide spoiler)]. What comment is Flynn making on images of women, female sexuality and femininity in modern US culture? I am asking because I have not yet decided what the answer is.
I recommend this book for people who enjoy dark psychological thrillers, where the mystery and murder are just set ups for authors to portray dark disturbing characters and fully fleshed but damaging relationships. I would say fans of Tana French, Donna Tartt, and Laura Kasischke would enjoy this book, but beware, it is not for the faint hearted - the decryptions of physical violence can be upsetting.
on December 19, 2006
This book touches on every "disease of the week" known to man. It deals with cutting, alcoholism, teen drugs and sex, animal cruelty, mean girls, etc. The author doesn't thoroughly draw any conclusions for any of these topics and while I was reading I kept waiting, almost smugly, for the next "crisis". That said, the story was really pretty good and it left me a bit unsettled. One passage about the pigs was particularly disturbing. I'll never eat a ham sandwich again without thinking about this book. Although the characters were interesting they were highly unbelievable and unlikeable. I was none too sympathetic toward any of them. I would recommend this book to open-minded adults (definitely not for anyone under 16) who like gothic-type mysteries and aren't easily offended by graphic sex and bizarre situations involving children.
on August 7, 2012
More of a horror story than a mystery. Gillian Flynn is a brilliant writer. I LOVED her book Gone Girl (except for the ending which I found disappointing). This one I couldn't even get to the ending.
There were some scenes that were so disturbing they will probably haunt me forever, especially the horrifyingly vivid descriptions of the pig farm and the mother pigs. I would give anything to not have that image in my mind. I will definitely never eat industrially farmed pork again and maybe that was her goal in including that bit of horror.
Halfway through I realized that things were only going to get worse. Not only do I not need more awful scenes to haunt me, but I couldn't see the point in intentionally consuming evil, depravity, depression, child abuse, animal abuse, addiction, bullying, and total human destruction by equally damaged people just for the sake of an exciting read.
Fortunately Kindle books are instantly refundable. But I would have paid if I could have unread this book. Also, the Kindle format was messed up--the first letter of each chapter was supposed to be a large capital and instead was a tiny one.
on July 8, 2011
Make no mistake, Sharp Objects is NOT an easy read. Not because it's dense or the language is overly complicated (exactly the opposite on both counts, actually) but because the characters and setting are so wholly distasteful and vile that you may find yourself squirming in your seat, alone and with no one to relate to. And Sharp Objects, with it's bitter rivalries, decomposing families and casual murder, is a difficult place to find yourself all alone.
Let me step back a little bit.
This is a brilliant book, and undeniably so. It spins a unique and captivating narrative through the one of a kind voice of it's flawed, flawed, FLAWED protagonist. The characters are distinct beyond expression and will remain in the dingier parts of your mind for years to come. It's a trip, to say the least, but a trip I would not recommend for everyone. It's an amazing book, but I can perfectly understand why people might hate it.
The whole story is yellowed at the edges and reaks of illness and decomposition. It is IMPOSSIBLE to move through it without having a sinking feeling in your guy and a gritty taste in your mouth. It's a merciless trip that makes you feel as sick and broken as the characters, and if that type of visceral experience is not something you'd enjoy, you'd best move on. This is not your typical "suspense-mystery-thriller"; there is no scene where our heroic heroine has her back to the door, cold sweat on her forehead and her pistol cocked and ready because the killer may be INSIDE THE HOUSE! ...Instead, we're given scenes like the one when our protagonist (an adult) does exstacy with her teenage sister and her friends and then goes wandering alone in the streets and we, the readers, are left to deal with the moral implications of this. If you're expecting the "killer in the next room -- ah!" tride and true, SAFE kind of suspense where you know things are going to be okay, this is not the book for you.
In fact, the moment you pick it up, you KNOW things aren't going to be okay. Our main character is a self-cutter, her sister's sick all the time from mystery ailments similar to what killed her other sibling in infancy, her mother is obviously CRAZY, and children in town have started dying brutally and inexplicably. Is there a 'who-dunnit' element to the tale? Yup. Is there a twist ending? At least one, depending on how you look at it. But those elements are pushed into the background, the volume turned down on them, so that character development and tone could be cranked up to eleven. It's an even, well layered tone and the characters are incredibly well-drawn out, and the end result is kind of like watching a gory movie: if you don't like to squirm in your seat at least a little bit, you're not gonna have fun.
Still, if you've any interest in darker tales and disfunctional (read: murderous) folks, this is a quick, captivating, flowing read with some superb writing and unforgettable imagery.
If you aren't fairly warned now, you'll never be. Cheers.
on November 3, 2012
After being blown away by Gone Girl, I bought both of Flynn's other novels and read this one today. Like others have said, I'm glad I read Gone Girl first. If this had been my first experience with Flynn's writing, I wouldn't have bothered reading anything else of hers.
I get the impression that it's supposed to be a mystery and that we're supposed to be shocked by the revelations in the end, but I found them both to be obvious very early on. I had the murderer pegged as soon as the character was introduced, and the other "shocker" was so obvious that I initially didn't realize it was supposed to come as a surprise to the reader. I assumed that the reader was meant to understand it without Flynn having to spell it out. In fact, I was somewhat confused as to how anyone else could have failed to connect the dots.
I spent most of the book waiting for the heroine to finally realize what had been obvious to me as a reader several chapters in. Almost everything from the introduction of the characters to the revelation of the 'secrets' is just filler. Characters repeat themselves in words and actions over and over again, and scenes are replayed in memories. I was particularly annoyed by the gimmick of taking up space by inserting the narrator's "articles", which are basically summarizations and word-for-word reprints of the dialogue and text we just read. It felt like the author was trying to reach a minimum word count. I was bored and found myself looking forward to the end of the book.
The characters range from boring cliches to comically unrealistic. The author's fixation on characters vomiting was bizarre; it happens all. the. time. and is described in detail. There's also a strange and awkward emphasis put on the hypersexualized, alcohol and ecstasy fueled 13 year old Amma's breasts, which are mentioned over and over again.
If you're expecting something as smart, riveting, and original as Gone Girl, you're going to be sorely disappointed with Sharp Objects. This book was boring, uncomfortable to read, repetitive, predictable, and not even recognizable as being written by the same author.
on March 12, 2013
I had a hard time staying interested in this book. The story line was boring at times. I didn't like the characters, and the ending was predictable from about 2/3 of the way through the book. Gillian Flynn is a good writer - I absolutely LOVED "Dark Places" and I liked "Gone Girl", too (except for the way it ended). This book was disappointing by comparison. It's worth the read, I guess, but it's nothing to write home about.
on July 15, 2015
I loved Gone Girl, and decided to move on to Gillian Flynn's other books. I loved this one -- the writing is simply excellent. After I got about 40 pages into it, I could not stop reading it. In a way, that was good because the subject matter is very dark and a bit disturbing at times. I think it was good to move through the book quickly rather than dwell too much on some of it! But still, even though some of the content made me uncomfortable, I loved every minute of reading this book. Not quite as good as Gone Girl, in my opinion, but better than most other fiction. Gillian Flynn really has an amazing gift and I can't wait to read what's next from her!