Gillian Flynn’s debut novel, Sharp Objects, is definitely a page turner. It was an Edgar Award finalist and the winner of two of Britain’s Dagger Awards, and is the first book ever to win multiple Daggers in one year. Flynn is best known for Gone Girl due to its raise in popularity in 2014 after a film was made, yet that does not leave this novel trailing behind in the shadows.
Sharp Objects tells the story of Camille Preaker, a Chicago reporter who has been assigned to investigate on the murders of two young girls from her hometown of Wind Gap. Camille is hesitant to go back home due to her own troubled past with her family, yet feels this could be a great opportunity to set her apart from other journalists.
Camille left her home town eight years ago and did not look back as she was trying to better her own life after the death of her younger sister Marian. She seldom speaks to her mother or half-sister who she does not feel a big connection with. Now being back at home in the Victorian mansion where Camille is haunted by her childhood tragedy, there is no escaping her family. She starts to identify with the victims and so Camille must learn to face her demons in order to figure out what is happening to the girls in Wind Gap.
As her own form of healing, Camille carved plenty of words into her skin as a visible record of the pain and trauma she’s experienced: wicked above her hipbone, girl across her heart. They serve as a reminder that what she has experienced is real and that it is a part of her.
Flynn brilliantly uses countless details to unravel the characters and plot of the novel. Each character is carefully crafted with their own characteristics allowing the readers to visualize them throughout. Flynn sets the novel in a small community in Missouri giving readers a feel of what it would be like to live in a small town where everyone knows your business. The novel touches various themes such as self-harming, promiscuity, growth, death, sister envy, school culture, and twisted mother-daughter relationships and their devastating effects. “I just think some women aren’t made to be mothers. And some women aren’t made to be daughters.”
The women in the novel are considered “nasty characters.” The women of Wind Gap are both victims and perpetrators. They are promiscuous, abusive, self-destructive, and violent. They are not socially constructed to be ideal women. They are seen as powerful and the men in the novel are part of the background. There are those characters who inflict pain onto themselves and those who inflict pain on others. It is an interesting twist to the murder mystery genre I am used to reading.
This play with roles allows for Flynn to derive from the norm. It is a must-read thriller that displays people in the raw. Flynn portrays how differently people react to abuse in their lives. She skillfully combines the psychological aspect of the novel and murder mystery to develop complex characters that can be unlikeable yet unforgettable.
Gillian Flynn is an American author, former television critic, screenwriter, and comic book writer. Flynn’s success as a writer is attributed to her fifteen years of journalistic experience as a double major in English and Journalism. She has three published novels Sharp Objects, Dark Places, and Gone Girl which became a film in 2014. Flynn’s work has been published in twenty-eight countries.