I blame my mother. A child weaned on poison considers harm a comfort.
I want to say up front that I really liked this book, because this review may lead you to believe otherwise.
Sharp Objects freaked me out.
Probably more than it might have, had I read it at some other time in my life. Like maybe six years ago when it came out.
But I started reading it two days after I wrote this on my wrist:
Alone, in a hotel room, despairing over my failures in marriage, noveldom and life in general, I had to remind myself that I brought that sharp razor along to do a bit of bikini cleanup, not to end it all. So I picked up a pen instead and did exactly what the protagonist of this book does. Naturally, reading it two days later creeped me out. Am I that messed up?
I tend towards melancholy. And maybe the tiniest bit of melodrama. On occasion. =*)
No spoilers, but Camille Preaker, the main character, takes melancholy and melodratic to the HNL.
In the opening image, Flynn sets up Camille as a rookie newspaper reporter. She gives us a nicely written bit of foreshadowing when Camille imagines a young mother, about whom she is writing “a limp sort of evil” story, as “fast floating, her kids way behind, as she shot back to junior high when the boys still cared and she was the prettiest, a glossy-lipped thirteen-year-old who mouthed cinnamon sticks before she kissed.”
There are a lot of flashbacks to when Camille herself was thirteen– first experiences with boys, her sister Marian dying, her foray into cutting. It was a rough year for her, as it was for many of us, I’m sure.
Flynn knows how to cut to the chase. Camille’s boss, playing the brusque editor type, gives her the murder story in her home town, which she doesn’t want; we get our first clue about the buzzing in her skin, “like someone’s turned on a switch”; she lets us know she’s a “soft touch”; and she’s off on her adventure by page 7.
Razor sharp. I can totally see this being made into a movie.
But Camille got under my skin.
She doesn’t shower, she bathes. So do I.
She’s a people pleaser. So am I.
She lacks confidence. Me, too.
She takes comfort in self harm. No comment.
In addition to identifying a little too closely with the main character— which is actually a sign of a very well-written piece of work, no?— there were two other things that bugged me about Sharp Objects.
First, the smells. Gillian Flynn must’ve heard the advice to include how stuff smells, and boy did she take it to heart. Especially when it comes to sex. Example. Page 211: the room smells like sex. Page 214: she “rubbed the lotion into [her] armpits and between [her] legs… The resulting smell was sweat and sex under a billowing cloud of strawberry and aloe.” Page 221: a former school friend offers “Friendly advice. Go home and wash yourself. You stink.”
We get it, Gills.
The other thing is teeth. Flynn reckons a nine and 11 year old each have 28 “tiny teeth.” Wrong on two counts. My 10 and 12 year olds have 24 each; have for a while now, with no sign of those last four coming any time soon. The 24 they do have are not tiny. They’re permanent, adult-sized teeth.
It’s nit picky, I know, but it’s something that took me out of the story AND it’s something I’m afraid will happen to me as I write mine. A dumb glitch that should/could have been spotted by a proofreader or made right with a bit of simple research.
Those few barbs aside, it really was a smart book. I thank Punk for his long search to get something he felt would suit me perfectly. I thank my mom for not poisoning me, because I probably really would have been as messed up as Camille. And I thank Gillian Flynn for writing two more stories I’m now very keen to read. (Dark Places, Gone Girl)
Flynn won some well-deserved awards for this, her first novel. I can only hope my debut turns out half as sharp.