I am one of the rare breed who didn’t lose their mind over Gone Girl. Let me put that a different way, I nearly lost my mind over everyone else losing their minds over Gone Girl when it really isn’t much good (you can read my review here), so I started Sharp Objects with some trepidation. I’m pleased to report that while I found the main character tiresome, and the plot a joke, I didn’t hate this book. Hooray!
Our narrator is Camille Preaker, a thirty-something Chicago-based reporter. She’s also a recovering self-harmer. The whiff of a possible serial-killer sees her editor sending her back to her home town, Wind Gap Missouri. A little girl has been murdered, and another has gone missing, and Camille is tasked with getting the ‘inside track’. Her return to her family home is not auspicious; Camille’s mother is self-absorbed, aggressive and bent on manipulating and punishing her eldest child. There’s also a step-father, who is extremely thin and extremely weird; a half-sister who is a mean-girl Lolita out of the home and a childish doll that is literally dressed up by her mother when in it; and a middle sister who died under mysterious circumstances. As you can imagine, being back at home is quite stressful for Camille, who has just about kicked the habit of carving words on her body that has left her with only a small patch of skin on her back that is un-scarred. As she gets involved in the investigation, she also gets ‘involved’ with the out-of-town detective on the case. They even manage to have full penetrative sex without taking off any clothes or revealing any skin at all. That’s a gift. The longer Camille is in Wind Gap, the more fragile she becomes. Particularly as she comes to realise that beyond being odd and oppressive, there is something very sinister going on in her family’s home that just may be connected to the murder and disappearance.
As it’s Gillian Flynn, the plot rattles along (and the book was mercifully brief), but you also have to wade through her usual smug, knowing prose. Everything is ‘vacant’ (‘empty’ being too ordinary perhaps), and there are too many unnecessary coincidences, like the narrator’s sister dying on her thirteenth birthday. The plot stampedes around being all Grand Guignol and gothic, and is completely over the top. The ‘twist’ at the end is pretty special too. The characters are reasonably well drawn, Camille’s mother in particular, who comes across as a ghastly cross between a David Lynch character and a matriarch from a Tennessee Williams play. All in all, I did enjoy it, but I still remain to be convinced by Gillian Flynn. She ain’t all that.