It’s a very slim selection for March’s reading list thanks to the release of Breath of the Wild at the beginning of the month. Between playing that and maintaining this blog, there’s admittedly not been a great deal of free time for me recently, but that’s okay. Although I only made it to the end of one book, it was a good’un.
Sharp Objects (Gillian Flynn)
Although Gone Girl is what Gillian Flynn’s best known for, it was Sharp Objects that kicked off her novel-writing career back in 2006. The book sees journalist Camille Preaker return to her home town Wind Gap to write about the murder and disappearance of two young girls in the area. Although Camille fails to make much headway in writing her article, she rediscovers the horror of family life that had kept her away from home for years and ultimately comes upon some disturbing revelations that will impact the rest of her life.
Given I’m someone who has a habit of focusing on dark and unsettling material when it comes to writing, Gillian Flynn’s work really speaks to me. She’s very blunt about the gruesome events of the book, never overemphasising the gore, or trying to dress it up as something its not. That’s further emphasised in her female-driven cast of characters who, while sometimes caricaturistic, are never shown to be anything but who they really are. Yes, plenty of the women in Wind Gap are fake, but there’s never any doubt in that from the moment you meet them.
Flynn has talked before about the lack of good female villains in literature and it’s something that has become a niche of her writing. She’s excellent at taking exhausted tropes and turning them on their head without making it seem unnatural, and the villains in Sharp Objects are some of the best I’ve seen in a piece of fiction. It’s not hard to believe that they’re murderers when it’s finally revealed, but they’re extremely compelling characters who stand out as well as blending into the background. Their vindictive behaviour is unpleasant and as a reader you don’t particularly care for them, but they seem too obvious to be the real suspects.
Even the main character – Camille Preaker – is unique as a ‘heroine’ of the novel. Her immense scarring is unusual and concerning, but rather than being displayed as a pitiful individual her strength is in her weakness. Although she is left broken by the end, she never once feels like a victim.
Ultimately, the mystery of the story takes a surprising backseat to the vivid world of Wind Gap and the insight to its population. While the murder of the two girls pulls in a reader, it’s these characters that keep the interest sustained until the climax. When all is eventually revealed in the final pages, the conclusion (for all its hiccups and twists) brings it all together, even if it’s not the most satisfactory ending. They never are in Flynn’s novels.
I give Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects a 8/10