While taking a mini-break from the heavy, slow-paced books that I was supposed to read for my book club, I discovered a gritty, gothic thriller which I greedily consumed within a few days. This darkly magnificent book was Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects—her first ever published work. Flynn is mainly famous for her third novel Gone Girl, a book that had hypnotized and shocked readers around the world. I will not argue that Sharp Objects was better than Gone Girl. No—but I will say that it is brilliant in its own way.
Before I begin to excitedly ramble on about how much I enjoyed this book and how other thriller enthusiasts should read it (ASAP!), let me provide you with a synopsis of the novel:
When the murdered body of a preteen girl is found and a second girl goes missing in a small town, reporter Camille Preaker is given the task of returning to her eerie hometown and covering the troubling story. While trying to fulfill her assignment, she is forced to stay at her family’s Victorian mansion and spend time with her hypochondriac mother and strange half-sister. As Camille attempts to unravel the mystery behind the murder case, she struggles to deal with her own disturbing past and soon discovers family secrets which have been hidden for a long time.
Now that you have the summary, I am going to list my three reasons for recommending this book:
- Sharp Objects is a good gothic thriller!
Being a huge fan of the gothic genre, I absolutely loved how Flynn incorporated elements of Southern Gothic throughout her novel—the Victorian mansion, the grotesque scenes, the eccentric and deeply flawed characters, the terrifying matriarch, the underlying madness, violence and decay. For me, these components helped to build the suspense and dark atmosphere of the narrative, which completely drew me in and left me unsettled.
- The narrative is complex and intriguing!
Unlike other simple mystery novels, which focus on one particular puzzle throughout the narrative, this book contains multiple layers of mystery that get unraveled: first is the murder case and the disappearance of a young girl; second is questions about Camille’s past and mental state; and third is the enigma behind Camille’s cold and reserved mother. As the story progresses, Flynn gives us a few clues at a time, either through flashbacks, new discoveries or subtle dialogues. These multiple layers make the story complex and interesting, which compelled me to piece the different puzzles together. It took a lot of effort to not jump to the last page in order to figure out all the answers!
- The main character is flawed yet realistic!
While Camille was not my favorite character (because of her frustrating choices and her passive nature), she does behave in a realistic and human manner. Suffering from the loss of her sister and lack of love from her mother, she chooses self-destructive methods to deal with her emotions—alcohol, men and self-harm (scarring her body with words). Even though she has gone to rehab and seems to have recovered from these self-destructive behaviors, it is interesting to watch Camille’s mental state unfold when she is faced with her mother and her past once more. However, despite her emotional frailty, I admired the fact that she uses her strength and love for her sister to push forward and find out the truth about her family. Unlike the majority of the characters in the small town of Wind Gap, who willfully ignore the ugliness festering beneath the society, Camille chooses to look beneath the surface even if the truth may be horrifying. This strength and resilience makes her quite the intriguing protagonist.
Before I leave you to run towards the library and grab a copy of Flynn’s Sharp Objects (don’t push anyone out of the way!), I would like to leave you with a few warnings about the book:
- If you are looking for a simple psychological thriller with light descriptions, then this is not the book for you. Sharp Objects is a very dark novel with heavy and disturbing details that may keep you up at night.
- If you are looking for a happy ending with everything resolved so you can sleep all satisfied at night, then, once again, this book is not for you. Flynn is well-known for her twisted endings and frustrating conclusions, so don’t read this novel if you expect the story to end on a happy note.
Lastly, if I have managed to pique your interest in this story, I do encourage you to read this book sooner rather than later because HBO is going to release a mini-series based on the book this year. The mini-series will have Amy Adams as the star of the show and Jean-Marc Vallee as the director (he is absolutely fantastic!). From my experience, it becomes impossible to get a copy of the book once the movie or mini-series gets released. So, go get your copy now!
~ Ehlam Zaminpaima, Librarian, West Vancouver Memorial Library