Last year it seemed like everyone was reading Gone Girl, and I just never caught on. So I thought I’d try Sharp Objects, Flynn’s first novel, before catching up with the rest of the universe. It’s a disturbing read, both in subject matter and in the resonance to relationships many of us have experienced in the real world.
Camille is a journalist assigned to cover the case of a second missing girl in her home town in backwater Missouri, sent because her boss thinks her local knowledge will be useful. But Camille detests her home, and her relationship with her family is fractured beyond repair. On her return she realises that she is still the outsider – while everyone else closes ranks and turns blind eyes to the secrets that haunt the town. As Camille becomes embroiled in a complex relationship with the investigating detective, Richard, she discovers that to find justice for the missing (and murdered) girls she has to blow her own life apart.
The crux of this book is the potentially poisonous nature of relationships between women, and it doesn’t make for comfortable reading. From the insidious gossip that characterises peer groups, to the disturbed behaviour that can evolve between mothers and daughters, this is an unflinching expose of the worst aspects of female nature. I saw the twist coming but it was no less hard-hitting for that; this tortured narrator with her own faults is compulsively readable, and her tragedy lingers in the mind long after the book is finished. Excellent, and deservedly award-winning.
Phoenix, 2007, ISBN 9780753822210