With a quote on the front reading, “keeps you reading with the force of a pure but nasty addiction,” I wasn’t sure what I was in for, but I knew it was going to be jacked up. I got a bit of a better picture when I peeked inside the cover, seeing, “I promise you will be thoroughly unnerved at the end.” Well, I just finished this book and I’m not even sure that I can write a coherent review but I want it out of my system, so here goes.
I first heard of Gillian Flynn when everyone was losing their shit over Gone Girl. I’m not much for spending a boatload on hardbacks anymore, so I went with an earlier publication by the same author to build myself up. This girl is dark. The whole time I was reading I kept thinking, “what happened in this woman’s life to make her write such dark and haunting things?” I feel the same way about Vince Gilligan and Walter White. Things happen in this book that are so disturbing and gruesome, you can’t help but cringe and keep reading just to see how it turns out.
Camille Preaker is a journalist from a small town in Missouri. She spent some time in a psychiatric hospital following her exodus to Chicago. After her sister died when Camille was thirteen, she started to self harm and it took years before she would get help. Coming into work one day, her boss decides to send her on assignment back home, where two young, preteen girls have recently been murdered. Nothing has changed on her arrival. Same small, backward town with their grand Victorians and penchant for secrecy.
Camille’s relationship with her mother has always been strained. The effect of her mother’s lack of love has run rampant on her psyche. The depth of her low self esteem is astounding. It makes me want to hold her and assure her that everything will be alright. That she is a decent person and is worthy of love and respect. Everyone else in the book I kind of want to shake a little.
When Camille starts to identify with the victims, you see the true evil that was a part of her life. Trying to remedy it now, and helping to solve the crimes leads to a broken dam of revelations. All of which are infuriating and incomprehensible, to Camille and the reader.
Flynn is a very gifted writer. She has an ability to write these deep and profound pages, but they’re not heavy or trite. Her words are light and Camille’s descriptions are almost comical.
The Victorians, especially southern Victorians, needed a lot of room to stray away from each other, to duck tuberculosis and flu, to avoid rapacious lust, to wall themselves away from sticky emotions. Extra space is always good.
If you were able to make it through The Lovely Bones, which is the last time I think I’ve read something this dark, you’ll not only make it through this one but enjoy it more. Since the protagonist isn’t a little dead girl telling the story from beyond. Even though I’m giving this a 5/5, I don’t think I’ll be rereading it any time soon. It’s like American History X, once you’ve seen it, it’s forever etched into your brain and there’s really no need to see it again. Even Stephen King agrees with me:
To say this is a terrific debut novel is really too mild…I found myself dreading the last thirty pages or so but was helpless to stop turning them. Then, after the lights were out, the story just stayed there in my head, coiled and hissing, like a snake in a cave. An admirably nasty piece of work, elevated by sharp writing and sharper insights.
Pick it up if you haven’t already. Great quick read. Will make you want to clutch your kids close to you if you have them. I hugged my cat the whole time (le sigh…).
I’m the third person this year to review Sharp Objects in the Cannonball Read. Check them out here.