I had been putting aside Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, who is one of my favorite authors, for a while, even when I was almost sure that I will like it. I just wanted savor it but when the dreadful slump threatened, I had to bring in the big gun.
So did Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn work well for me? Was it worth the hype and will I be watching the Amy Adams starring HBO series? You will have to read my book review of Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn to know more.
Camille Preaker has been offered a chance to redeem her career as a journalist and her position with her chief, who has been always by her side even during her recent stint at the psych ward.
All she has to do is return to her hometown and cover the unsolved murder of a pre-teen girl and the recent disappearance of another.
While Camille is no way ready for visiting her hometown, but she does it anyway. She hasn’t spoken to her obsessive mother (Adora) in years and barely knows her half sister Amma.
With an uncooperative local Sheriff and handsom Kansas City detective on tow, Camille finds herself not just covering the story but finding the murderer who removes the teeth from his victims.
Will Camille be able to dig through the mystery, without awakening her demons from the past? What’s the deal with her family and her past? Grab a copy of Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn and read it right away.
Book review of Sharp Objects
I should start with a huge disclaimer: I am a huge fan of Gillian Flynn and I have read all her books including her novella. She is one of those authors that I would recommend to anyone looking for a fast psychological thriller or a new reader.
And I am glad to announce that Flynn didn’t disappoint me at all with Sharp Objects. Yes, it is apparent that it is not as nuanced as her later works, but it is still as dark as her books are usually. Fans of dark pasts and dysfunctional families, you won’t be disappointed.
I guessed the killer at about 70% of the book but I think Sharp Objects was more than just finding the murderer. It has always been about the characters themselves for me, which were fully developed and intriguing in their own ways.
If you have read Gone girl and/or Dark places, you know what you are in for and you will love it.
What worked for me
No one writes dark and damaged characters like Flynn and I have come to expect them in all her novels.
I love how motherhood was a subtle theme all through the book. Even the last article that Camille was working on before returning home was about a mother who abandons her kids for some drugs to her own mother who hugged her “ferociously”.
You may not like the protagonist at all. And Camille just makes it hard to root for her and her actions gets only desperate and irrational after a while. (I like such characters, but just a warning for those of you who don’t like books with unlikeable protagonists.)
The whodunnit part can be figured out or at least guessed before it happens. So if you are in just for the mystery part of it, Sharp Objects might seem predictable.
Self harm (cutting), parental neglect and abuse, mentions of underage sex and rape, recreational drugs.
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn is an engrossing thriller that will stay with you for a long time if you like twisted and dark characters and dysfunctional families. Flynn doesn’t disappoint her fans with Sharp Objects at all.
It was for me, at least. I mean what is there to not like in them, right? RIGHT?
Well, my so called friends (am seriously reconsidering my allies here!) gave me bunch of reasons to support, which I begrudgingly have to accept, that the unreliable narrators might not be for everyone.
But I am sure there is at least one kind of unreliable narrator that each of us like. They are not all the same!!!
Types of unreliable narrators
Yes today I am gonna talk about the kinds of unreliable narrators that we usually find in fictional world and why they are so important in their books. Ready for the ride?
Unreliable narrators that are naïve
Okay not totally naïve but they can’t help it. For some reason they are not fully aware of what is happening to/around them, maybe by their own doing or not.
For example, Jack from the Room was inside the shed for years before he was broken out and seeing the world with the innocence of a young boy is definitely not reliable.
Unreliable narrators whose perception is misleading
There are many characters that fall into this category in the recent times. Christopher Boone from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, for instance, cannot be taken at his face value, as he on the Asperger’s / Autistic spectrum and his understanding of things is quite literal and lacks depth.
Patrick Peoples from The Silver Linings Playbook and Charlie from the Perks of being a wallpaper have repressed memories, while Rachel from the girl on the train has been under the influence of alcohol almost the entire time of the story.
And these books largely depend on these narrators and otherwise would have been another run of the mill novel.
Unreliable narrators that hold back information
Omitting to state the facts is also kinda lying, of course. But Eva does that so well in We need to talk about Kevin. The whole books is written in the form of letters to her estranged husband and she talks about everything but why Kevin did what he did (mass shooting at his school) and if she did enough to prevent that from happening.
I recently read the Woman in the Window for my book club and found that Dr Anna Fox holds back a lot from others and the reader as well. Well, on a happier note that backfires right at her and that plays so well into holding the suspense to the story.
Unreliable narrators that outright lie and manipulate
These are my favorite kind of unreliable narrators!
Man, they toy with us and mislead us perfectly into their trap without breaking a sweat. Take Patrick from American Psycho, he is suave, well read and smart and he commits gruesome murders with a finesse (or not!). His unreliability is the only thing that left us questioning the reality at the end.
I love Gone Girl and I adore Gillian Flynn‘s writing and her unreliable characters (yes there are many). Nick and Amy seem sincere and innocent until we start unraveling their traps and deceit. I mean talk about the plot twists these unreliable narrators provide.
Yes, they misrepresent facts, break our trusts and some time lie to our faces even. But so what?
I mean what narrator is truly objective and trustworthy! They all talk about the things they believe are true. So what if these narrators add a bit of bias, color the truth or even hold stuff back from the reader? They are as amazing as their lying conniving selves they can be, to me!
I love Dr House from the TV series, Harvey Spectre from SUITS and Alan Shore from Boston Legal. Oh Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind, of course. Wondering what is common among these characters that I seem to love so much? They are all arrogant, cocky and snarky and of course self obsessed. Yes I have set out to like all grey characters somehow and may be that is why I seem to love every one of the books of Gillian Flynn. Things weren’t any different with The Grownup.
Wait I am just trying to reason out my favoritism, but the truth is I really do like her writing and her well thought out character. For obvious reasons I had to pick up her new short story The Grownup as soon as I could and how could I end up liking her more than I was liking her earlier, if that makes any sense.
The narrator works at Spiritual Palms as a fake psychic, rather a keen and quick observer, a rise from her earlier occupation of providing hand jobs (yup you heard me right). She is smart, manipulative and of course selfish, much as expected from Flynn’s novels. When her newest client, Susan is worried about her house being haunted, the narrator decides to use that opportunity to earn some easy money.
But her visit to her house reveals much darker secrets and her step son Miles even threatens her to leave if she wanted to save her life. She chooses to ignore the teenager’s warning only to find out more creepy things like a cat whose tail had been cut off. But things take a turn when she hears out Miles’ side of story, when she finds Mike’s books at their library. Was she being conned by Susan, the wife of her favorite customer Mike? Or does the house really have some ancient history? What to believe and what not?
From a short story with less than 50 pages, I could not have asked for more. And if you were into horror and super natural, you sure would love the second part of the story. Like most of her books, The Grownup is filled with grey characters and I could not decide whom to believe or not. The story is filled with twists and left me wondering if I were siding the right guy / lady at all, much like the narrator.
Flynn has become one of my favorite writer in a very short time. She has the wicked way of making the reader reach out to his dark parts of the brain, even if he does not generally (I do). In this story I was hooked to her flow of unexpected twists and I loved the open ending, which may not work for many.
We start with the skeptic outlook of the narrator, then we start to look out super natural elements because your narrator does, thanks to Susan’s creepy house and creepier step son. Then we just unlearn everything we just read because there is a new version of the story. It is almost like Flynn wanted us to go, ‘phew we reached almost the end’ and she does it all over again and again and again. Damn it, READ IT ALREADY, I say.
P.S Did I say the narrator was not named at all?
P P S. Watch out for my next book review from a completely different genre from anything I have written yet – yes, we are going on a spiritual trip to Himalayas!
I just realized there are few authors that I fall in love right from their first book that I can lay my hands on, and then they go on to make me stay in love (unlike the people in real life, but that is a story for another time), with every one of their other books.
Twenty five years ago, 7 years old Libby Day testifies against her 15 years old brother Ben, for the massacre of their family – their mother and two younger sisters. Ben is convicted for life, partially on Libby’s testimony and partially on the evidences related to his practices of ritualistic Satanic worship and substance abuse.
Libby is still mentally stunted and turns pretty much selfish and broke, living these many years on the donations and trust fund for survivors of such murders. Libby blocks away, mentally and physically, anything to do with ‘those’ days – until she was contacted by an odd club obsessed with solving mysteries, called Kill Club.
The members of the club are convinced that Ben was not the murderer after all, and offer to pay Libby to talk to people related to the murder or the Day family. Libby agrees to do it for want of money. As she meets the people from her past, she unravels the dark secrets that happened decades ago as well as the poignant and confused memories she had safely locked up in her mind.
Their mother, Patty was shot on her head, both Patty and Debby had been slaughtered with an axe, and Michelle was strangled to death. The walls were covered with blood and scriptures and profanity. Libby confesses to the reader that she had not seen anything but was hiding and listening to a male voice and screeches of their mother. She tries to convince herself that she did the right thing and all the evidences did point to Ben. Was she correct? Did she put the right person in? Will she able to get past her past demons? Grab a copy of the Dark Places right now.
Book review of Dark Places
The narrative alternates from present day Libby, and voices of Patty Day (mother) and Ben Day on the day of the gruesome murders.
I have always been partial to stories with flawed characters and guess what, this book is so ridden with them that I can’t help loving the book and the writing – not the characters. And that’s there, that I didn’t love or even like any of the characters. The plot is gory, dark and depressing; yet poignant enough to strike a chord in your heart and hold my attention.
Each character is etched to perfection and the flaws are quite real. Be it Patty who hated her miserable life so much that she could see only the easy way out or Ben who wanted only a sign of approval from his girlfriend and friends. Or Libby who did not want to take a step to recount her past until she found it as a lucrative business. Yes, these are the kinds of people I look forward to in books. (Yes, I am creepy and weird)
Despite the gory theme with abundant violence, it was the writing of Gillian Flynn that kept me reading it. I love that she expresses so much emotions with few words. Having seen read and loved “Gone Girl” I was sure I would enjoy the book but I ended loving it as much.
Quotes I liked from Dark Places
As ever, some of the quotes that I loved from the book.
“I was not a lovable child, and I’d grown into a deeply unlovable adult. Draw a picture of my soul, and it’d be a scribble with fangs.”
“That was another of my mom’s words: glum. It meant having the blues in a way that annoyed other people. Having the blues aggressively.”
“I felt something loosen in me, that shouldn’t have loosened. A stitch come undone.”
“They were recognizable but totally foreign, an everyday word you suddenly couldn’t remember to save your life.”
Many might have a problem with the ending being abrupt but that is how life is. The twisted and vile nature of people and circumstances do play a lot of role in everyone’s life.
Of course, the book is not for everybody. Perhaps, Satanic worship, substance abuse, underage sex, teen pregnancy as well as the vivid description of the bloody massacre would be too much. But on the whole I loved her writing and I am looking forward to reading her other books as well.
If you are up for dark thriller, with so many twists that you don’t see them at all and beautiful writing to accompany, the Dark Places should be your pick.