Monday, 22 February 2010

Sharp Objects: review


Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn, won the CWA Debut Dagger three years ago, and having just read it, I can understand why. It’s a very accomplished piece of writing, and a disturbing novel of psychological suspense. If you’re after a comfort read, look elsewhere, but if you are prepared for a dark journey, you’ll be gripped by this book.

It’s the story of Camille, a reporter from Chicago, who is sent to her home town, the splendidly named Wind Gap, to investigate the murders of two young (and, it turns out, not very pleasant) girls. Inevitably, Camille goes back to her mother, the pretty but complicated Adora, and recalls the trauma surrounding the death, some years back, of her sister Marian.

Camille has more than her fair share of demons to exorcise, it turns out. Among her own dark secrets is the fact that she self-harms, and after years spent cutting words into her body, she is terrified of anyone seeing the damage she has done to herself. Yet she is a beautiful woman, and becomes involved both with the out of town cop investigating the crimes, and the prime suspect.

Although the story sags a little in the middle, the beginning and end are outstanding. It’s an original and well-written book, with a memorable protagonist and a splendidly evoked locale. Wind Gap isn’t exactly Stepford, but it’s a place where women are in the ascendancy - and not in a good way. I found the book troubling, but it did impress me.

8 comments:

Ann Elle Altman said...

YOu find the most wonderful books. I will have to find this one, it's right up my alley.

ann

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Interesting! I'll look it up. Sounds troubling but intriguing. And the mention of "Stepford" has me wondering what's going on in the town...

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder

Maxine said...

I read this novel, but wasn't that impressed. I liked the writing style but I didn't find the character convincing as a journalist. And is it that believable that she'd not be given expenses even to stay in a cheap motel? Or even so, if she hated her home life so much, that she couldn't afford to stay somewhere cheap to avoid her family? But I rather liked the deep south overblown melodrama and the awful made-up teenagers. I think my read of it was not helped by the fact that I instinctively knew who the baddie and "hidden plot" were going to be. But, I don't want to be too down on it, I did enjoy it, and I know what you mean by "troubling".

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks for the comments.
Maxine, as you say, there are various points that weren't credible, and in fact, half way through, I wes beginning to lose interest. But she rescued the narrative very well, I think, with some powerful writing, though again I would agree that the final twist was foreseeable.

Janet O'Kane said...

There was a feature on this writer in last November's Writers' Forum,which I remembered when I read your piece because of the cover artwork for Sharp Objects and its follow-up Dark Places - very arresting imagery. No one would pick either up in the mistaken belief that they were 'cosy'!

Martin Edwards said...

Hi Janet. I've heard good things about Dark Places, and I'd certainly be glad to read this author again. But as you say, cosy she isn't.

Barbara said...

The horrible women them (omg, women can be horrid? really, really? what a shock!) didn't work for me. The setting also seemed demographically unlikely. But line-by-line the writing had much talent behind it.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Me, too.