Sunday, January 12, 2014

Sharp Objects

I approached my third selection for Project 84 with understanding trepidation. My first “fun” book of 2014 ended in some disappointment, and I was concerned that my second choice would follow in the same vein. Luckily, I was wrong. This second “fun” choice was exactly what I wanted these books to be: an entertaining, easy to read page turner.

With that in mind, Book 3 of Project 84 is:

Sharp Objects

Sharp Objects
by Gillian Flynn

Earlier last year, I read Gone Girl, the most recent Gillian Flynn novel that graced the NY Times Best Sellers list. I had mixed feelings about the book, or so I thought at the time. But I couldn’t get it out of my head. Then, a few months later, I found myself reading Dark Places, another Gillian Flynn book, which I devoured in a little less than a week. And when I was putting together the list for Project 84, the first book I thought to add was Sharp Objects, the only Flynn book I had yet to read.

Evidently, I’m more of a fan than I thought.

Sharp Objects takes place in the fictional town of Wind Gap, Missouri. Chicago newspaper reporter, Camille Preaker, is sent by her editor back to Wind Gap (her home town) to investigate the second murder of a young girl to take place in less than a year. Early on in the book the reader learns that Camille has a strained relationship with her mother, with whom she is staying, and that she spent some time in an institution for cutting herself (more specifically, for carving words into her skin). Both seem to stem from the death of her sister at a very young age.

And, like the first two Flynn books, I devoured it.

Like I said, it’s tough to give interpretation of a book like this without ruining parts of it – and that’s the last thing I want to do. I don’t even want to put spoiler cuts, because I think Sharp Objects is the type of novel you want to go into “blind”, in a way. I admit, I don’t read a ton of mysteries, but I know that, if it were me, I wouldn’t want the twists to be ruined.

So I’ll try to stick to the things I can critique without giving away too much of the plot.
My favorite part of this book – which could be true of all three Flynn books – is the complex characterization. None of her characters are perfect people. The hero is flawed. She makes mistakes, she says the wrong thing, she’s downright insensitive at times. She’s also not a particularly good journalist, and there’s something really genuine about that for me. What kind of damaged 30-something alcoholic woman would be able to churn out genius articles? She wouldn’t, and Flynn knows that. She would also be immature, and make mistakes, and not be very self-aware. Flynn knows that too. I thought those were all excellent choices, and part of what I connected to in the book.

And, through that connection, the twists along the way become even more jarring, especially when it comes to the characters. The villain we know turns out to only be half the trouble. The suspect becomes the love interest. The victim becomes the aggressor. The character of whom I early on wrote in my notes:

“__ is my favorite character. She’s weird, and I adore weird.” – Lana’s Notes on Sharp Objects

…turns out to be someone I don’t sympathize with at all. But it’s so long before I found that out that I already felt truly connected to her. It’s what makes this book fascinating. It plays with even the reader’s emotions. Is it the best written book I’ve ever read? Not even close. But there was still something intriguing and genuine about it to me, and, if nothing else, it made me turn the page.

I also love the way that Flynn allows the reader to do some of the work. She introduces clues early on and then refers back to them later, but doesn’t connect the dots for you as the reader. You’re supposed to do that. You’re supposed to figure it out. For example, early on Camille makes an offhand comment about how the killer could be an “androgynous man”. Later on, she mentions that one of the characters is “androgynous”. It makes that person a suspect without directly addressing him as such. I like doing part of the work myself, particularly in a mystery novel.

So, in conclusion, I liked Sharp Objects. I think Gillian Flynn is talented, and I’d recommend all her books to a reader who wants entertaining, easy to read mysteries. The book’s exciting, engaging, and doesn’t take long to hook you. Every now and then, it’s good to have a wild ride.


I am very aware that I haven’t been doing a good job at sticking with the “expected posting dates” of my blog posts. I hope that’s not driving anyone too crazy, the posts all just seem to be a little longer than I anticipated, which leads to extra work. I’m going to try and give myself an extra day or two for the next few, and see if that keeps me honest with the “expected” dates.

Next Review: Atonement by Ian McEwan (Expected posting date: Wednesday, January 15th)

*All annotations and page numbers refer to this version of Sharp Objects, published by Shaye Areheart Books in 2006*

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