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Sharp Objects: A Novel
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As loyal Entertainment Weekly subscribers, we have been fans of Gillian Flynn for her smart, funny, and spot-on reviews of books, movies, and TV, but we were not prepared for her stunning debut novel Sharp Objects, a wickedly dark thriller that Stephen King calls a "relentlessly creepy family saga" and an "admirably nasty piece of work." We're calling it a cross between Twin Peaks and Secretary--sinister, sexy, and stylish. Perfect fall reading. --Daphne Durham

10 Second Interview: A Few Words with Gillian Flynn

Q: Do you prefer writing novels or reviewing?
A: I think writing is more pure--and actually a bit easier for me. It's just me and my laptop, not me and my laptop and a TV show that 30 people have worked on. Reviewing keeps you sharp--I can hardly watch or read anything without taking notes now--but plain old writing I find actually relaxing.

Q: Do think your writing is influenced more by books that you have read, or shows/movies that you have seen?
A: My mom spent her career as a reading teacher and my dad is a retired film professor, so I was really steeped in both books and movies growing up. To this day, when I get my dad on the phone, pretty much his first sentence is "Seen anything good lately?" I love putting words together (I've never met a simile I didn't like), but when I write I often think in "scenes"--I want these two people, in a dirty bar, with this song playing in the background.

Q: I hear you are working on your second it is too early to ask what it's about?
A: I'm still playing around with the whole plot--when I wrote Sharp Objects, I wasn't even sure who the killer was for a bit. But I can say [the new book] has to do with family loyalty, false memories, a wrenching murder trial, and a dash of good 'ole 1980s hair metal and devil worship.

Q: What is your writing process like? Have you changed anything about how you work since your first book?
A: My writing process is incredibly inefficient, and hasn't changed between books. I really don't outline: I know basically how I want the story to start, and vaguely how I want it to end (though like I said, with Sharp Objects even that changed!). Then I just write: Some characters I start finding more interesting, some less. I write entire swaths that I pretty much know I'll cut. I have an entire file of "deleted scenes." I guess the one thing that has physically changed is I moved into a new place since my first book--it has a great bathtub, and I'll prop my laptop up and write in the bath for hours. Which is, admittedly, weird.

WICKED above her hipbone, GIRL across her heart
Words are like a road map to reporter Camille Preaker’s troubled past. Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, Camille’s first assignment from the second-rate daily paper where she works brings her reluctantly back to her hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls.

NASTY on her kneecap, BABYDOLL on her leg
Since she left town eight years ago, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed again in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille is haunted by the childhood tragedy she has spent her whole life trying to cut from her memory.

HARMFUL on her wrist, WHORE on her ankle
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.

With its taut, crafted writing, Sharp Objects is addictive, haunting, and unforgettable.

From the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews:

  • Small Town Nastiness
    This is a depraved little thriller, in a sick, small town underbelly kind of way. No big surprises, really, but it held my attention throughout and in the end I was interested to see what happened to the tormented characters, and that's always a good thing. Recommended....more info
  • Good for a first novel
    I preface this review with: This was a book I would have never have read had I not been part of a book club.
    Although I did enjoy this book, and read it in about two days, I cannot give it any more than 3 stars. It was well written and the story was sound however I kept feeling like the author was trying to parallel too many aspects of the main characters' life into the murders. Even though they panned out in the end (don't worry, I won't spoil it) it wasn't fulfilling for me. There was no "ah ha" moment at the end. It was more of a, "oh, well that makes sense."
    ...more info
  • Entertaining but not nearly as shocking as I expected
    I don't have to find all my book characters likeable though I did like the main character of this story. I also enjoyed the portrait of a small home town's dark side which I personally didn't find to be too much of a stretch. However, most of the other characters were too "flat" for lack of a better word. I believe that I read somewhere that the author found inspiration in fairytales but while these types of characters work in a fairytale they just seemed not quite right in the book. Not that I wanted them to be less evil; I completely enjoyed that aspect. My major problem with this book was that I figured out the plot (including what happened to the teeth) very early on. More focus on other possible suspects would have increased the suspense. I also didn't feel that creepy forboding nail biting suspense that makes this type of book so fun. I never really felt like the main character was in danger. I'm not sure if this was in part due to the fact that the main character didn't seem to care what happened to herself very much, or simply because the author didn't put her in harm's way enough while creating the feeling that something unknown but horrible was about to happen. I did enjoy and was startled at how the "romance" of the story turned out. It was, in my opinion, a welcome change from most mystery books with a romance. Even though the book had some flaws it felt fresh compared to a lot of other mystery/suspense books so I will likely read anything more Flynn publishes. However, I do feel that the amount of praise for this book is a bit excessive. ...more info
    This book is TOO MUCH. Too much sex, too much alcohol, too much drug use, too much self-mutilation, too many people intent on the destruction of themselves and others. The narrator and her family could be poster children for the 21st century version of any Grimms fairy tale (only without the happy ending).

    The narrator, Camille Preaker, a reporter (with more than a few problems of her own) returns to her home town to investigate the murder of two young girls. The town of Wind Gap harbors more than it's share of bizarre characters and would be an excellent place to set up practice if you happen to be a psychiatrist in search of a new client base.

    We have a self-centered, irrational mother; an out of control half-sister, high school friends all displaying symptoms of neurotic behaviour, murder victims who are less than sympathetic, and a group of insidious teen-aged girls who could have stepped out of a work by John Saul or perhaps Edgar Alan Poe.

    Gillian Flynn writes of her unhinged creations; malovolent females, victims and victimizers, poisoness environments, with such clarity and knowledge, it makes one wonder about the childhood of this writer.

    All in all, not a very pretty tale.....but one that does stay with you like a bad dream. Two and a half stars.
    ...more info
  • Impressive
    Solid book. Great twist. Maintains attention throughout. Disturbing at times. Wasn't expecting much going in but Flynn's debut novel was pretty impressive....more info
  • An unstable reporter returns to the small-town scene of ...
    [***** = breathtaking, **** = excellent, *** = good, ** = flawed, * = bad]

    ... her horrific childhood to investigate a murder. Deeply creepy & powerful. Longer review at ImpatientReader-dot-com. ...more info
  • Dark, Insightful, Disturbing
    Book Club Review
    Sharp Objects
    by Gillian Flynn

    Our book club's book for April was SHARP OBJECTS, by Gillian Flynn. We decided on this book because we wanted to try reading something that is more issues-based, and this is a story about a young woman who engages in the disturbing practice of "cutting" (self-mutilation). As a club we do not mind an intense read, and we thought we could all learn more about the psychology behind cutting by reading it.

    The narrator of the book is a reporter for a third-rate Chicago newspaper who is sent back to her hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri, to investigate the murder of a little girl--the second such murder in a short amount of time, which makes it seem like a serial killer is on the loose. The editor thinks that Camille Preaker will be able to get the townspeople to open up and talk, because she is a native. However, Camille goes back only under duress, because she has a very (and I do mean VERY) unpleasant relationship with her mother and stepfather (she doesn't even know who her real father is). She also has a sexually precocious half-sister who alternates between being a sort of Lolita and an almost catatonic clinging vine. Camille's investigation uncovers some truly creepy things going on, including the fact that the two murdered girls were actually quite hateful, and that her own mother had odd relationships with those girls. To say more would be a spoiler.

    We found a lot to like and admire about this book. First, the author is an incredibly sharp writer, full of insights and observations that are often disturbing, delivered in a way that slaps you across the face with their vividness. Second, it was interesting to see the author going so much against "type" -- in other words, having the audacity/courage to make little girls into nasty, vicious creatures instead of sweet, innocent victims. The insights into the narrator's "cutting" are deep and disturbing...The reader comes to realize the source of her behavior and how she is almost powerless to stop herself from playing out the script created in her childhood. There are also some really intense plot surprises here, even if the middle of the book drags a bit.

    What we liked less were some of the more "Southern Gothic" aspects of the book, moments that seemed like they were lifted directly from MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL. Several of the characters are little more than cliches, and the pacing was inconsistent. Still, we all agreed that Flynn is a terrific writer, and we look forward to more by her. It probably does go without saying that this book isn't for the squeamish. It is true noir but it does have just that little ray of hope/possible redemption that keeps you rooting for the heroine.
    ...more info
  • Hated it
    A well-written fake.
    None of the characters (or the crimes, for that matter) are believable, especially Amma, protagonist's 13-yr old half-sister. The teen culture described by Flynn is especially laughable. Kids don't feel like that, don't behave like that, and don't talk like that.
    Camille, the seriously messed-up narrator, is tremendously irritating and unpleasant. I have little sympathy for psychotics, and her character, the way it was developed by Flynn, does not have a lot of depth. Camille is tediously dull, monotone, and inept as a reporter. Basically, she takes baths, drinks burbon, throws up and cries A LOT throughout the story. It is unclear to me why she keeps staying at her monster-of-a-mother's house, while her Chicago boss keeps reminding her that she could go home at any time if she feels uncomfortable. But no - Camille passively chooses to wallow in self-pity and misery. She is clearly a masochist.
    It is equally unclear what exactly makes her so attractive to the "chicklet-toothed" detective Richard (another unlikable character who has no substance).
    Camille's sexual promiscuity does not make me like her more, though I am no prude. I guess that has to do with how cold and detached she is. Maybe she is supposed to be "tough" in the face of evil, and I am supposed to feel sorry for her, but somehow I just don't. IMHO, Camille is simply morose.
    The story comes to this: a freak girl comes to freak town and deals with a lot of freaks, headed by her freak immediate family members.
    I am not debating that the novel is well-written. It is rich in detail, very visual, and has better parts. However, upon reading it, I was left with sort of a bad taste in my mouth. The book is really nasty and revolting, and when a female writer comes up with something like this, I think that there is something really wrong with her.
    This view of life is depressing and dark, and I really don't appreciate writers whose flair comes to naturalistically describing their character's vomit and other bodily secretions in detail. The beauty of storytelling evaporates, leaving the reader slightly nauseous.
    Perhaps one would argue that it's the whole point of a crime novel - to make it as dark, naturalistic, and disturbing as possible - but take Harris's "Silence of the Lambs", for example. Yes, it is very dark, but brilliant, and I could re-read it again and again.
    "Sharp Objects" somehow resembles "In the Cut" by Susanna Moore. I threw it out of my house immediately upon reading it, I disliked it so much.
    Something is missing in Flynn's novel. It is too cold and unpleasant on every level - if you enjoy these emotions, read it....more info
  • Sharp Plot
    First the good news: Gillian Flynn can write. She's written a page-turning, psychologically-based mystery that keeps the reader craving to find out more. In Camille, she's created a truly compelling and unique character: a cub reporter, recently out of the psychiatric hospital for "cutting"... self-destructive yet blessed (cursed?) with insight.

    Now for the not-so-good news: after thoroughly hooking the reader, the author suddenly makes a bolt for the finish line. No spoilers here: it's just that the ending strains credibility and tries to tidy everything up quickly in an implausible coup d'etat. And by creating a two-leveled ending, the horror of the original premise becomes diluted and lacks the intensity it should.

    My final assessment: two-thirds of this novel is well worth reading. The last third doesn't work. But hey, this is Gillian Flynn's first novel and from her writing ability, I'm sure even better is on the way....more info
  • Makes you feel guilty you enjoyed it so much!
    I read much more nonfiction than fiction, but picked this book up at an airport a few days ago. Usually, such purchases are a waste of my money and time. Not so this time!

    I read it in two days and was disappointed my flight wasn't longer so I could've finished it in one sitting. The subject matter was disturbing on a couple different levels. But I couldn't help myself, I really enjoyed it.
    Like a bad accident, I couldn't stop reading. And the narrator, while imperfect and sad, was very easy to sympathize with. The writing was easy to read and felt effortless. A nice work from a first time author. Like so many other readers here, I will look forward to Gillian Flynn's next novel. Well done. ...more info
  • 3-1/2 Stars For Scandalous Mystery
    Gill Flynn has written a great small-town book. In other words, she writes of a pretty little town with very unpretty people. Every character in this novel is psychologically scarred or trying to scar someone else. Are people really this bad?

    Two fourth-grade girls have disappeard from this area where everyone knows everyone. No mysterious strangers off their psych meds have wandered through the neighborhood, so the denizens of the town have to admit the perpetrator must be one of their own. A 30-year-old who got out in time to make a life (of sorts) for herself in Chicago comes back to town to investigate the crimes for her paper. She gets involved and manages to dredge up a solution.

    The story is fairly compelling; and even if you already have an idea who the bad guy(s) is/are by the end of the story, the payoff is palpable and satisfying. Ms. Flynn writes simply, straightforwardly, and well. I would definitely consider reading her next work of fiction....more info
  • Pleasantly Shocked!
    For the first couple of chapters I thought SHARP OBJECTS was just another female oriented cozy mystery. NOT true! Many authors of that other gender would give their you know what to be as horrifyingly graphic as Ms. Flynn. Absolutely, my favorite book, so far, this year!...more info
  • A Good Read
    Found this book to be a compelling read. I thought the plot was interesting and the characters were really well-formed. Not bad for a first time novelist. Definitely recommended. ...more info
  • sharp objects
    this is a great book. It was well paced w/ no dull moments. I highly recommend this book amd also her second book Dark Places. I can not wait for a 3rd one!...more info
  • Disappointing
    I decided not to finish this book because it is full of unsympathetic and rather boring characters, because the author obviously has not had any experience with a small town in the bootheel of Missouri (or any other small town), and it was overhyped. It is neither chilling or suspenseful. Camille has no compelling reason to stay in town. She is an inept reporter because she doesn't know how to interview and get a story. The hotshot detective from KC has been there for months and doesn't have a clue. Literally. Which reminds me. The book is full of incomplete sentences. Once in a while is okay but all the time is irritating. We deserve better than this....more info
  • Sick but thrilling
    Sick to the bone. At times disgusting. Nevertheless,thrilling. Once you 've started it, it is impossible to put down even if you 're sleepy to death. Only after you 've finished it do you realize that the answer was right before your eyes, staring at you throughout the whole book.(Well, for the biggest part of it anyway!) It stays with you for days after you've read it leaving you with an uneasy feeling....more info
  • "It is impossible to compete with the dead. I wish I could stop trying."
    Horror skates blithely through this novel, surfacing periodically in frissons of malice. This author enjoys a special talent: the painful excavation of the female psyche. Women receive no special treatment, are expertly dissected, demystifying the myth of kindness and comfort associated with females. As in Dark Places, Flynn's female characters are unpredictable, unlikable, often intimidating, sometimes violent. This grim view of womankind continues in Sharp Objects, as reporter Camille Preaker is sent on assignment by her third-rate Chicago newspaper, The Daily Post, to cover the death of a young girl and the disappearance of another in her home town of Wind Gap, Missouri. Staying with family, mother, step-father and thirteen-year-old step-sister, Amma, does not make for a happy homecoming. Rather, a tension-filled, antagonistic atmosphere permeates the family home, a pristine Victorian house filled with expensive objects and bad intentions.

    Clearly, Camille has private demons, not the least of which is a dependency on alcohol to soften the edges of reality and a compulsive scribbling of words on her wrist, as though to seal them in memory. As Camille works her sources, forced to confront her past in Wind Gap, one death becomes two when the missing child is found, both children bearing a common horrifying mutilation. Camille interviews old friends and former acquaintances, the reluctant families of the dead girls, a Kansas City cop brought in on the case. Here is troubled territory, indeed. Meanwhile, Camille's distant mother refuses to tolerate the ugliness her daughter brings into her carefully controlled environment. Under her mother's roof, a long dead younger sibling competes with an enigmatic half-sister, a changeling who is a sweet, compliant daughter at home, a wild, cruel creature in the world. Menace bubbles just beneath the surface, a thin veneer of domesticity hiding family secrets deep and dark.

    Not for the faint of heart, Flynn writes with the ferocity of a feral child. Reduced to the helpless pawn of a controlling mother, Camille flails about, discovering facts about the murders that threaten to unravel her hard-won peace of mind. While the police favor a transient or the brother of one of the victims, Camille is pulled in an entirely different direction. At one point I found this dance on the dark side nearly unbearable, a nightmare of past and present, unresolved issues and night terrors, Camille's only defense to drink herself into oblivion. In Flynn's disturbing, unforgettable thriller, every place has its own brand of violence, comfort is transient and terror waits patiently on the other side of the door. Luan Gaines/2009.

    ...more info
  • Sharp Objects
    Dark, raw, gritty and fantastic!
    I loved how real this book was. I'll definitely buy more of Gillian Flynn's books. ...more info
  • Harshly compelling but...
    I bought this book two days before I was scheduled to take a train journey, and kept promising myself I would save it for the train, but I couldn't stop reading. It's just an irresistible book, astonishingly blunt and brutal at times, but not in a gratuitous or shallow way, because it's built on a solid core of humanity.

    The problem: Though Publisher's Weekly praises Flynn for successfully "misdirecting" the reader, I saw the ending coming about 70 pages in. And I'm not particularly adept at such things. The twist and even the twist-beyond-the-twist is telegraphed clearly enough (especially for any reader who's seen The Sixth Sense).

    But even knowing where we were going, I was driven to read on. And will definitely check out Gillian Flynn's next novel....more info
  • addictively disturbing
    This was an amazing debut novel that can only be described as addictively disturbing, with one of a kind characters and a plot twist that makes it nearly impossible to stop reading....more info
  • Haunting
    I found this book to be so hauntingly delicious that I couldn't put it down. My only reason for not giving it a full 5 stars is that it wraps up really quickly. But I still can't get some of the scenes out of my head, and I doubt I ever will. Thank You, Ms. Flynn....more info
  • I am rarely shocked and pleased by a novel; this one did both.
    Gillian Flynn is an amazing new talent; her novel had me by the hooks in so many ways; I could feel the words burning on my body as I read along. And the shocking ending was amazing. I love the main character, and I would love to see more of her in future novels....more info