Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn — 254 pgs

Camille Preaker hides her damaged soul and ravaged body well. As she works diligently as a journalist at a failing newspaper, she hides more than she tells. When two young girls from Camille’s hometown are brutally murdered, her boss and mentor sends her back home—back where it all began. For Camille, home doesn’t mean good times and friendly faces; it means facing demons that she thought she put to rest years ago. Her mother, an aging beauty, has a heart like a faucet: one minute warm and expressive, the next cold and bitter. Camille also has a sister that was born five years before she left town and who doesn’t know of her troubled past. But this sister and mother are more than what they appear to be, and the sickness that almost devoured Camille runs rampant and unchecked in them. They are all broken dolls, living a life that looks perfect on the outside but that hides malevolent secrets. As Camille investigates the two strangely similar deaths, she unwittingly begins circling the drain, wondering just where she went wrong. Something is not right in that town, and in a place that she once called home, she will have to face the last of her demons as they rip through the community, plunging it headlong into destruction. The secretive residents of Wind Gap are full of more darkness than light, and they may be harboring a brutal killer in their midst. In this tale of unmitigated wickedness, Gillian Flynn once again takes her readers for a hell of a ride and leaves them holding the tatters of a community that has seen violence like no other.

After reading Gone Girl, I knew that I was going to read all of Gillian Flynn’s backlist. I was so happy that my book club decided to pick this novel for its December meeting. I needed no cajoling to go out and get this book, and in fact I yelped in delight when I found out it was picked. I may have been a bit hasty with that yelp, because this had to be one of the most twisted and strange books that I have ever read. When I reached the middle, I had to put the book down between chapters because it was so raw and powerful. Sad, strange, gripping: these are just the beginning of the adjectives that could apply to this book. It was feral and wild and dark in ways that I never expected.

Camille is a head-down worker bee, always on the lookout for a good story that will elevate her career and get a jump on the other reporters. Though she works alone and has few friends, she does have a mentor who wants to see her succeed. But even the idea of sending her to Wind Gap seems crazily illogical to Camille, for reasons that are as yet undiscovered. Camille is a recovered cutter, and words blaze across her hidden skin like wildfire in the night. Very few people know this about her, and she is excellent at hiding it, but her words begin to itch and come alive as soon as she hits Wind Gap. While she is a former cutter, she still hangs on to a thread of that vice, making her delicate and malleable to nefarious forces beyond her control.

The interplay between mother and daughter is fraught with tension and a confusing mesh of instability. Adora Preaker is a woman who is flawed beyond comprehension. There is a deep absence of love between mother and daughter that Camille has never understood, and as she creeps closer and closer to finding the girls’ killer, she also learns that her relationship with her mother is like a cancer, eating away all that is clean and whole in her. Adora clearly has favorites, and Camille is certainly not one of them. I was surprised that Flynn took her characters to the precipice and let them drop. Not one ounce of gruesomeness was spared, be it of the carnal, mental or physical variety. This book treads on the thin line of insanity, tipping over drunkenly into Camille’s horrific past.

The most interesting character in this tale was Camille’s younger sister, Amma. She is force of nature, and not in a good way. The leader of a pack of vicious high school blondes who terrorize the school and the residents of Wind Gap, Amma is uncannily coercive and flamboyantly proud of it. She rules not only in the word of adolescents but is equally feared by the adults. While Camille is on the hunt for the murderer, Amma is happily striking horror into the hearts of those less glamorous and fortunate than she. But being the daughter of the wealthiest scion of the small town, Amma goes unchecked, power dancing wildly from her delicate fingers like a slashing rain in the night. She is every girl you ever feared all rolled into one, but there is fear in her as well as around her.

This is not a book for the weak of stomach. Its debauchery is flagrant and vividly powerful. It’s a story that I can’t forget, and a tale that gave me the sweats while I was reading it. Gillian Flynn is a master at forging a story that had me on tenterhooks from the very first line, and her haunting denouement brought chills to my skin. For the brave and the intrigued, this book is a masterpiece of malevolence brought to you by an author who can craft a story that seeps into your brain like a vile worm. Highly disturbing, but recommended.

33 comments:

Kathy said...

Not sure I will sign on for this one. While I loved Gone Girl, I hated the characters, this one sounds similar with characters that are evil. I think I'll go for something lighter in the TBR pile.
Great review today, thanks!

Anita said...

I listened to the audio on this one, and ooooh you have done such a nice job with your review!! Yes it was twisted and dark, and very disturbing, but I am glad I listened. Dark Places is also very good, though it took me longer to get into the book and it's characters, the second half flies by as you are so anxious to learn the truth.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I think I have too weak a stomach for this one!

Ti said...

Very powerful review. I know I will read it at some point even though Gone Girl was not a fave of mine. I tried to read Sharp Objects once. I got 3 pages in and felt like it was too dark. Too dark for me?? Unheard of, right? Well, it was. I guess I need to pick the right time to read these books.

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I read this book when it first came out a few years ago or so. I was in Las Vegas for a business conference for two days, and I think I was the only person who went back to their hotel room after the meetings to not go out and gamble or drink or whatever, but instead to just read. (But we all know what that's like!) I felt the same way: not for the faint of heart yet extremely bizarre and powerful. I wasn't as big a fan of her second novel DARK PLACES, but it is still a good read with twisted stuff going on.

Glad you enjoyed this one, Heather! Great review, as always!

Mary (Bookfan) said...

Oh boy, not sure I'm the right reader for this one. Great review!

nomadreader said...

I've been meaning to read Flynn's backlist too, and I'm glad to hear this one doesn't disappoint. Perhaps I'll sneak one in before the end of the year!

bermudaonion said...

I've got to try one of Flynn's books! Have you seen her picture? I can't figure out how someone who looks so sweet can write books that sound so disturbing.

LisaMM said...

My book club will be voting in a couple of weeks. Several of us read Gone Girl and I know that Sharp Objects is going to come up as a nominee when we vote. I'm not so sure, though, after reading your review, if I'll be voting for it! Not sure I can handle it, ha ha!

LisaMM said...

My book club will be voting in a couple of weeks. Several of us read Gone Girl and I know that Sharp Objects is going to come up as a nominee when we vote. I'm not so sure, though, after reading your review, if I'll be voting for it! Not sure I can handle it, ha ha!

Jennifer @ Mrs Q Book Addict said...

After reading Gone Girl I really want to try this one as well. I'm not sure how much I'll like it, but I really want to try it.

Buried In Print said...

Oh, I absolutely love that feeling, when you read a book and you just KNOW that you want to collect that author's entire backlist. It's so exciting. I've yet to read one of her novels, but I have heard many good things and can easily imagine how enjoyable they must be. I hope you continue to enjoy her work this much.

Brooke said...

Was really excited to see your review of Sharp Objects on my reader! This will be my first Gillian Flynn novel and I can't wait! I think a novel described as 'feral' is something right up my alley.

Suko said...

Am I brave enough to read this one? Hopefully!

Holly (2 Kids and Tired) said...

Your review is fantastic and it just reminds me that this book is probably not for me!
2 Kids and Tired Books

Jenny said...

I'm curious if this is the kind of disturbing that will bother me. Some disturbing gets to me and some doesn't. I really want to read it though because I want to read her other books like I mentioned before.

Jenners said...

This was the first Gillian Flynn book I ever read and it hooked me on her stuff forever. I actually think the story in this book is more disturbing than Gone Girl. I'm thrilled that her success with Gone Girl led so many to her back list -- what horrifying treats await! (Too bad she only has three books though. BAH!)

softdrink said...

Twisted...yes! Flynn has quite the knack for twisty plots and twisted characters. I'm still waffling over Dark Places. I should probably give it more time, so I don't burn out on all the twistiness!

kay - Infinite Shelf said...

Great review! Like you, after reading Gone Girl, I just knew I wanted to read more from the author. I added her two previous novels to my TBR pile but haven't touched them yet. After your review, I am even more curious to read Sharp Objects. I love books that are dark and unsettling, but I will be careful to pick a right time for it. Thank you for such a thoughtful review!

Trisha said...

I really need to jump on this Flynn bandwagon!

Marie said...

Flagrant debauchery? Sign me up! :-)

Vasilly said...

This sounds like an amazing read but it sounds a little too gruesome for me. Great review.

Lisa said...

I'm trying to remember is I have Sharp Objects or Dark Places. Either way, it's definitely time for me to get to Flynn. Great review as always!

Heather @ Book Addiction said...

I just finished this one and while I agree about it being riveting, I think it's my least favorite of her three novels. It was just beyond disturbing, and I know I sound insane when I say this, but I figured out almost all of the important plot points very early on. But I did enjoy it, for sure. Flynn is definitely a master of her craft.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I read this one the year it was published so it's kind of blurry now - I appreciate the refresher as I remember the "chilling" feeling I associate with the title, and the author for that matter (I have read all of her books). Glad u had a chance to read this one.

Aarti said...

Wow. I read Gone Girl over Thanksgiving and finished it feeling a bit dirtied and depressed, so I don't think that I could move onto this one very easily at all! I'll give it a miss.

jennysbooks said...

I read this in late November and liked it a lot! It was even darker than I was expecting -- and I was expecting pretty dark -- but I enjoyed it anyway. I'm excited to read Flynn's later books, as everyone seems to agree she only improves with each successive book.

Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) said...

Unlike many people, I read this one well before Gone Girl was ever released... I had extremely mixed feelings about, perhaps because it was so twisted and dark. But part of me felt that Flynn maybe was taking the novel to disturbing places just for the sake of it, not necessarily because the store itself called for it, and that rubbed me the wrong way. If not for the raves GG received, this probably would have been my first and last book by Flynn, but it certainly seems like she has a knack for cunning storytelling!

Literary Feline said...

I've had this book for what seems like forever but still have yet to read this. I plan to make a point of reading it next year. I wonder though if I will like it as much now as I might have back when I first intended to read it. My stomach isn't as strong as it once was . . .

bibliosue said...

I have to get to Gillian Flynn's backlist as well. Gone Girl was such a great book.

Wall-to-wall books said...

I read this book when it first came out and I loved it! I have not read anything else by her though.

Susan said...

I loved GONE GIRL, even though it's got quite a bit of "debauchery." I don't love that about her books, but she has a way of keeping me very intrigued with her plots, so I'm sure I'll be checking SHARP OBJECTS out sometime soon.

Irene Jennings said...

I have been waiting for this review of yours. And I'm so glad you liked it. So many good things about this book, now I'm even more excited to start reading it. Well, no, actually I'm not. After your review of having loved listening to it, I'm not sure. I have a Kindle copy and should read it but if my budget allows, I will be going for the audiobook.

Thank for the lovely review.

Irene Jennings of Fishing Lodges Alaska

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