Title: Sharp Objects
Author: Gillian Flynn
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Released: September 26, 2006
Content Warnings: Abuse; rape, molestation, animal, mental, emotional, physical. Violence; death, child death. Mental Illness; self-harm, suicide, alcoholism, drug use, compulsive behaviours. Fatphobia
Representation: Mental Illness, Trauma, Addiction
Synopsis*: When two girls are abducted and killed in Missouri, journalist Camille Preaker is sent back to her home town to report on the crimes. Long-haunted by a childhood tragedy and estranged from her mother for years, Camille suddenly finds herself installed once again in her family’s mansion, reacquainting herself with her distant mother and the half-sister she barely knows – a precocious 13-year-old who holds a disquieting grip on the town.
As Camille works to uncover the truth about these violent crimes, she finds herself identifying with the young victims – a bit too strongly. Clues keep leading to dead ends, forcing Camille to unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past to get at the story. Dogged by her own demons, Camille will have to confront what happened to her years before if she wants to survive this homecoming.
Sharp Objects is less a title and more a warning; Be careful with this book, your heart will be a bleeding, human mess after.
“It’s like they picked the two girls in Wind Gap who had minds of their own and killed them off,” John said.
Oh boy, this is going to be a hard book to review. So let’s just get the summary out of the way, shall we?
Sharp Objects shares the dark side of a small town called Wind Gap that its residents want you to see. It’s about terrible people doing terrible things, it’s about mental illness and abuse and sickness so deep it rots your core.
But it’s highlight? It makes you question your idea of what a monster looks like.
“You were never such a good girl when you were little,” she said. “You were always so willful. Maybe your spirit has gotten a bit more broken. In a good way. A necessary way.”
I picked up this book because I watched the HBO series. Big surprise right? Grey reads a book because she watched the adaptation first and loved it.
I was so not prepared for the ride I had signed up for.
This story, regardless of whether you watch it or read it, is triggering as fuck. Please consider whether you can handle it before diving in because it genuinely could be dangerous to a person’s health.
Amy Adams is such a brilliant actress and I never quite got it until Sharp Objects, but here I am, now a faithful Amy Adams stan.
I can’t say I enjoyed the series because it’s not something you should enjoy. It’s fucked up to the highest degree and it’ll get under your skin but that’s the whole point and it succeeds in that.
So when I finished the series I knew I needed to read the book. I was worried that it wouldn’t live up to the series but I needn’t have worried at all.
🔖 If you would like a free phone wallpaper created by yours truly, stay till the end of this post where you’ll find a link to download TWO!
Even the idea of this practice I find repulsive. But the sight of it actually does something to you, makes you less human. Like watching a rape and saying nothing.
Sharp Objects is, for the most part, set in the small Missouri town of Wind Gap. It is both disarming and terrifying how Flynn painted this town. It captures small-town life but not just with the gossiping and class dynamics, Flynn also shows the dark side of small towns.
Small towns come with a heavy side of boredom which practically begs teens to get up to all sorts of unsavoury things to cure themselves of it.
The stories I’ve heard of what my mum and her siblings got up to as teens shocked my delicate suburban sensibilities as a child. It also cemented that I would never be able to get away with anything because my mum already did it all before me. (So I did the only thing a smart teen could think of, and waited to do my rebelling once I turned 18.)
It’s not just the drug-fuelled haze of parties and sex, small towns can also breed the worst humanity has to offer. When you grow up in a small town with little to no access to the outside world, what goes on in that town can be the only thing that makes up your entire world.
People become who they surround themselves with and in a small town that can be quite limited. So what if your town is filled with violence and cruelty?
Flynn captures this so brilliantly by contrasting conversations our main character, Camille, has with the adults in town, to the ones she has with her little sister and her friends. The dynamics are incredibly similar and we see Camille fall back into them almost immediately, even though she’s been living away for years.
A child weaned on poison considers harm a comfort.
What I loved about this book is Flynn’s writing, the way she crafts a sentence, forms Camille’s thoughts, she does so in a way that will tear a reaction from you. None of the feelings are good, they’ve all got a thick oily coating but they are real, if nothing else.
She challenges what society thinks a monster, killer, victim is and glares a light on how we handle tragedies like little girls going missing and being murdered.
“They were darling girls, very well behaved and sweet little things. It’s like God plucked the best girls from Wind Gap to take to heaven for his own.” She’d been practicing, the words had a rehearsed rhythm. Even her smile seemed measured: Too small is stingy, too big is inappropriately pleased. This smile just right. Brave and hopeful, it said.
“Meredith, I know that’s not what you thought about the girls.”
“Well, what kind of quote do you want?” she snapped.
But the crimes that lead Camille back to her hometown are just the backdrop for what Flynn is best at. Her characters.
They’re all fucking terrible and I loved it because they were so damn interesting.
I want to crack open each of their skulls just to see what I’d find.
Flynn crafts her characters so well that you always want to learn more about them. The little bits you do get are never enough and that’s not just true for the main characters, the whole town is a collection of complex and nuanced characters.
“And if you girls won’t love me, I won’t love you.”
But boy, are Flynn’s three main female characters especially compelling.
Few authors dedicate their pages to unlikeable female characters, few still will dedicate them to straight-up terrible female characters but Flynn is unflinching in her portrayal of them.
Camille, Adora, and Amma are so uniquely and deeply fucked up that I was waiting on the edge of my seat to see what the fuck any of them were going to say or do next.
🔪 A M M A 🔪
“If someone wants to do fucked-up things to you, and you let them, you’re making them more fucked up. Then you have the control. As long as you don’t go crazy.
Amma’s cruelty knows no end.
She’d rather be murdered than not be the centre of attention. She gets off on abusing people and striking fear in the hearts of anyone she comes across.
She’s a master manipulator and genuinely terrifies me.
🔪 C A M I L L E 🔪
I couldn’t decide if I’d been mistreated. By Richard, by those boys who took my virginity, by anyone. I was never really on my side in any argument.
Camille is just a twisted up nightmare of self-hate.
She spent years of her life compulsively carving words into her own skin and invalidates her own experiences and feelings at every turn.
🔪 A D O R A 🔪
“Look what you’ve done to yourself,” Adora said. “Look at it.”
“I hope you just loved it. I hope you can stand yourself.”
Adora is the queen of “Look what you made me do”.
Adora’s victimisation of herself runs so fucking deep that I genuinely think she’s totally clueless to what an abusive fuck she is.
“I just think some women aren’t made to be mothers. And some women aren’t made to be daughters.”
And Flynn does a fantastic job of showing us how these three women have become the way they are.
Camille shares morsels of her past, growing up with a mother like Adora, under the shadow of her dying-and-then-dead sister. We get a taste of what Adora’s upbringing was like under a female tyrant. And we get to see in the present how Adora’s mothering has very royally fucked up Amma too.
Their lives are compelling and intricate and horrific in equal measure.
Sometimes I think illness sits inside every woman, waiting for the right moment to bloom. I have known so many sick women all my life. Women with chronic pain, with ever-gestating diseases. Women with conditions. Men, sure, they have bone snaps, they have backaches, they have a surgery or two, yank out a tonsil, insert a shiny plastic hip. Women get consumed.
What I will say is that it was very hard to discern where Flynn stood on the oh so many of the topics she covered in Sharp Objects. The views on women were contradicting at best and confusing at worst.
But maybe that was the whole point. Maybe that in itself is a critique on how society always wants to put women in neat little boxes, ignoring the complexities of what it means to be a woman by ignoring the fact we’re also human and not objects.
Flynn gives you women in stark colour, bloody and wounded and messy, and dares you to try and find any label that fits them.
A dream. Marian, her white nightgown sticky with sweat, a blonde curl pasted across her cheek. She takes my hand and tries to pull me from bed. “It’s not safe here,” she whispers. “It’s not safe for you.”
*Taken from Goodreads.
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Grey Recommends – Trauma & Abuse Narratives on Screen
🍃 The Tale, Limited HBO series: A woman filming a documentary on childhood rape victims starts to question the nature of her childhood relationship with her riding instructor and running coach.
🍃 Big Little Lies, HBO series: The apparently perfect lives of upper-class mothers, at a prestigious elementary school, unravel to the point of murder when a single-mother moves to their quaint Californian beach town.
🍃 Gerald’s Game, Netflix film: While trying to spice up their marriage in their remote lake house, Jessie must fight to survive when her husband dies unexpectedly, leaving her handcuffed to their bed frame.
Thank God for the history feature!
Because I nearly lost this whole review thanks to poor internet connection!
🔖 If you would like a FREE Phone Wallpaper that I created with quotes from this book you can find two here.
Have you read Sharp Objects?
Have you watched the HBO series?