Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Sharp Objects - Gillian Flynn

Sharp Objects
Oh, Gillian Flynn, you master of messed up protagonists. Will you ever write a book about a happy, fulfilled person? My guess is no.

I read Flynn's three novels in backward order, a move pretty atypical of me. I like to start at the beginning of an author's literary journey when I can. Obviously, this is necessary with a book series, but I also like to see them grow as an author over the course of their stand alone work. Just didn't work out that way with Flynn's work.

I read Gone Girl in September 2012 and was completely captivated. Obviously, I wasn't alone since Ben Affleck is starring in the movie adaptation due out this fall. The narcissistic centerpieces of that book were unlike any protagonists I had ever encountered. And I loved them...I mean, as much as I you can love completely vile people.

Then, I read Dark Places last May. Again, a totally twisted book with an emotionally desolate main character. Again, fascinating and horrible simultaneously. 

And so, now I come to Flynn's first novel. Kevin and I both read it while we were in Aruba earlier this summer. Nothing like laying by a Caribbean pool in the sunshine while reading about one seriously messed up family. Talk about contrasts.

Sharp Objects centers around small-time Chicago reporter Camille Preaker and her return to her small Missouri home town. As Kevin pointed out, Flynn sure does love Missouri. Write what you know, I guess. Preaker returns home reluctantly at the instruction of her editor. She is assigned to cover the death and disappearance of two young girls.

As the book progresses, of course bad things happen in the town and Preaker ends up involved in solving the case itself. Meanwhile, though, her own familial drama pulls her back into a place of doubt and self-destruction she was trying to escape in Chicago. Her family is so. messed. up.

In fact, though it has been a while since I read Flynn's other books, I think Sharp Objects trumps them on the disturbing scale. There are some seriously messed up scenes, not limited to when Camille does drugs with her middle-school age sister.

I have to admit that, while I enjoyed the book (at least, in the same way some people enjoy horror movies), it's one I would probably skip at the theater. There was just a lot of grit, more than the first two books, and that's saying a lot. I do have my limits and watching something is a lot different than reading it. At least when I'm reading, I can pick and choose what to visualize and which passages to push through with a fascinated grimace.

A competent Flynn reader would notice immediately that this book is her first published work. It still shows some roughness around the edges and her style has not yet been polished as well. Nothing wrong with that; we all have to start somewhere. Yet, this is exactly why I like to start with an author's early work and grow with them. You do not get as disappointed if you climb with them, rather than hopping back down to work they wrote with less experience, less professional assistance, and less attention. At least, that has been my general experience. Not true in every case, clearly.

If you are a Flynn fan, I do recommend Sharp Objects. It's part of her repertoire and will disgust and delight with the same potency as her other books, but without some of the finesse. Just go into it prepared and ready to take a bath or do something really happy afterward. You'll need it.

Pages: 321
Date Completed: June 4, 2014

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