I recently read Gillian Flynn’s third novel, Gone Girl, and while I loved most of it, I couldn’t help but be somewhat disappointed by the ending. (This seems to be the common complaint with the book.) Still, I liked it enough that I decided to go back and read her first two novels, Sharp Objects and Dark Places.
All I can say is, wow. Gillian Flynn is the real deal. Sharp Objects is the story of a deeply scarred young woman who returns to her hometown to report on the murders of two young girls for the small Chicago paper she works for. As usual, Flynn’s writing is top notch, her prose lyrical and gorgeous. But even more impressive is the psychological depths of her characters, all of them wounded and with secrets that are slowly unveiled throughout the course of the story. She meticulously details small town life in the south–the secrets, the class differences, the hidden (and not so hidden) cruelties that extend from high school into adult life. We are incapable of escaping our past, no matter how dark, no matter how much we may wish to.
From the jacket blurb:
WICKED above her hipbone, GIRL across her heart
Words are like a road map to reporter Camille Preaker’s troubled past. Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, Camille’s first assignment from the second-rate daily paper where she works brings her reluctantly back to her hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls.
NASTY on her kneecap, BABYDOLL on her leg
Since she left town eight years ago, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed again in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille is haunted by the childhood tragedy she has spent her whole life trying to cut from her memory.
HARMFUL on her wrist, WHORE on her ankle
As Camille works to uncover the truth about these violent crimes, she finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Clues keep leading to dead ends, forcing Camille to unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past to get at the story. Dogged by her own demons, Camille will have to confront what happened to her years before if she wants to survive this homecoming.
Unlike Gone Girl, the ending of Sharp Objects does not disappoint. It grabs you by the throat and thrashes you around until all you can do is sit, stunned, at the power of her writing.