Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Title: Sharp Objects
Author: Gillian Flynn
ISBN: 9780307341556, Three Rivers Press, 2006
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Rating: B+

First Line: My sweater was new, stinging red and ugly.

Not all that long ago Camille Preaker was a patient in a psychiatric hospital. Now she's a reporter for a second-rate Chicago newspaper. Her first assignment? To go back home to Wind Gap, Missouri, to cover the murders of two young girls.

Although the police think that the killer is a transient, Camille believes a local is responsible. As she interviews old acquaintances and newcomers, she begins reliving her childhood and uncovering long-buried secrets in her family.

This was a very uncomfortable book for me to read. Although I try my best not to give away plot points, this book has been out for about four years, and what I'm about to say is nothing that can't be found in any review at Amazon. The razor blade on the cover of Sharp Objects isn't there merely for decoration. The reason why Camille was in a psychiatric hospital is because she's a cutter. Reading about Camille's preference for self-harm not only gave me the creeps, it strongly reminded me of my own battles with severe depression. (In my own case, I was in so much mental pain that picturing chopping off my hand with a meat cleaver was seductive, and I actually believed that it would feel good.) Although I'm well past that, the memories are very easily brought to the surface.

As I met the members of Camille's family, I wanted to drag her out of that house and never let her return. Mental illness had made that place a dead zone, my skin was itching fiercely, and I found the pages more and more difficult to turn.

My strong reactions may give you the impression that the book is poorly written. It is not. On the contrary-- to produce such strong emotions in me, I would say that it's very well written. The only real weakness I found in Sharp Objects was the fact that Flynn's attempts at misdirection did not work with me. Early on I'd homed in on the murderer like a guided missile, and Flynn could not shake me.

After turning the last page, I felt as though I needed a stiff drink or a strong tranquilizer. I haven't felt that way in a very long time. If Flynn's second novel, Dark Places, is anything like her first, I'm not at all sure that I'll read it. I think my grandfather would call that a back-handed compliment!


  1. If you and I get any more alike, I'm going to get a severe case of the creeps. I too have suffered from depression. At the moment I'm fine but still take medication because my husband has Parkinson's which is difficult to cope with. I definitely will not read this book. Thanks for the warning.

  2. Thank you for your insightful review, Cathy. It's interesting how books affect us sometimes. It sounds like this one really got under your skin because of your past experiences. I read a book the year before last that had the same impact on me (although for different reasons), although I wasn't quite as courageous as you are in addressing it publicly. I ended up in tears while reading the book--and it really wasn't that type of book, the kind that would evoke such strong emotions.

    I've had this book on my radar for some time and do hope to read it one of these days.

  3. Barbara-- You're welcome. If anyone ever accuses me of never reading outside my comfort zone, I can point right at this book!

    Wendy-- I was silent about my depression for years. If one has never carried that burden, one tends to look at a sufferer as if that person is deficient in some way. I still don't speak of it often, but I've come to learn that letting others know can be reaching out to someone in dire need. They need to realize that they are not alone. I've been saved a time or two by that. How can I not pass it along?

  4. Oh her second one is just as disturbing. She's good, but her books definitely leave me needing a bit of light sunny feel-good fiction to follow them up.

  5. Hi, Cathy. I read this book a few years ago. The story was disturbing, but the writing was amazing. I already bought Dark Places, but I have yet to read it.

  6. SuziQ-- Thanks for the heads up. Seriously!! I think that's why I may be spinning my tires a bit with my reading right now. I moved on to books that were almost as serious. I think I'll go out to the TBR shelves right now and choose something light and fun.

    Helen-- The writing is amazing. Like I said, I think it's an excellent book, but it just hit a bit too close to home for this reader.


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