Sharp Objects

Sharp Objects by Gillian FlynnI picked up and ultimately purchased my copy of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects on a whim. I was browsing in an airport bookstore when I happened on it, and was tickled by the idea of boarding an airplane holding a book with a razor blade foil-stamped on the cover. What a treat that the book ended up being a great read (though my original reason for picking it up has certainly left a lasting impression: I’ve subsequently loaned my copy to several friends when they’ve asked specifically for vacation-reading recommendations).

Not that this is necessarily everyone’s idea of beach reading. But this dark, twisted little novella of a book hit me in just the right place (which should probably worry me), not unlike last year’s runaway hit (with me): We Need To Talk About Kevin.

It’s positioned as a bit of a suspense/horror/thriller/mystery, but it’s not particularly mysterious, and any suspense is largely emotional.

What it is, is an intense little glimpse into the dark side of small town life (a la Twin Peaks) and in particular into the lives of an extremely dysfunctional family. If you’re a regular mystery reader I have no doubt you’ll piece it together all too soon, but the criminal investigation isn’t really what makes this book so gripping.

For me, the narrative worked best as a portrait of a slow-awakening — the protagonist sheds layer after layer of denial until what is fairly obvious to the reader finally penetrates. The use of language also drew me in — tight and punchy while still extremely sensual, dark and gritty and yet still somehow buoyant… the stylistic equivalent of the sharp little razor blade that sits provocatively on the book’s cover.

But don’t take my word for it. Stephen King’s review, as quoted on the back cover, was what sold me:

“To say this is a terrific debut novel is really too mild….Sharp Objects isn’t one of those scare-and-retreat books; its effect is cumulative. 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.”

Sidenote: “…I found myself dreading the last thirty pages or so but was helpless to stop turning them…”  To continue the comparison, I would personally make the exact same statement about We Need To Talk About Kevin.

My only caveat in terms of a whole-hearted “go read this right now!” recommendation is if the cover image suggests like the book might trigger any behaviours you might be working to manage: it will. Don’t read it if you’re coming from that kind of vulnerable place.

From the archives, written February 20th, 2008.

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