Book Review: Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects

Yet another interesting book from the ‘scrounged from the building’ TBR pile. I’ve heard about Gillian Flynn, the author who wrote bestselling Gone Girl, but I’ve not read anything by her. It was another bit of a departure from my usual/comfortable. I was interested because of the genre – it’s a murder mystery, and hey, I’m writing one, so I should read some too. Though mine is set in quite a different era and setting.

The cover, nicked off Amazon – it’s an HBO series! I considered watching it to see how it compares, but I’ve filled my nasty crimey TV section of my brain with British stuff on Netflix at the mo.

Non-spoilery synopsis

Sharp Objects tells the story of Camille, a journalist who is dispatched to the small town in which she grew up to cover the second in a string of murders – young girls killed and their teeth removed. The town is full of painful memories for her, including the death of her younger sister and her own spiralling mental health issues, none of which is made easier by her fraught relationship with her mother. Camille slowly pieces together the facts about the crimes, drawing together memories of the past with her knowledge of the small-town life she left behind. There are a couple of twists and turns towards the end.

Meditations on American small-town life

I think this book manages to balance a sort of small-town gothic with bigger psychological themes. By small-town gothic, I mean that sort of feeling of knowing everyone… and not in a good way. That rather hashed out trope of insiders vs outsiders, in a small town rocked by a tragedy (go back and read that last clause in a movie trailer announcer voice).

The bigger themes, particularly coming through in Camille’s mental health concerns and previous self-harm, are covered in a very personal way, through the close first person perspective. It’s quite challenging to read, as she looks over her self-harm scars, words carved into her skin. The connection between writing and pathology, keeping records of occurrences and feelings, makes for a creepy and interesting story lens.

Book-club books

So, something else that a lot of these books I’ve been reading from random sources, is that lots of them seem to have lists of questions for one’s reading group at the back of the book – time to delve into the themes in conversation. I find these lists quite interesting, because often, I flip through the questions before I’ve finished the book, and they definitely shape my reading of the text.

Worth it?

Eh. Really not my taste at the moment. I didn’t find it as compelling as I expected, really. I think I might give Gone Girl a read if I come across it.

Have you read it? Watched it? What do you think?

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