I might have mentioned this before, but I absolutely loved Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl (2012). It’s one of those books that gets under your skin and never really leaves you, even after you’ve long since closed the back cover. I felt compelled to experience the evolution of Flynn’s writing since her debut novel, so I recently ran out and picked up both Sharp Objects (2006) and Dark Places (2009).
Now that I’ve finished Sharp Objects, stop #1 of this summer’s reading extravaganza, I’ve got to be honest: it’s interesting and well-written, but a quantum leap in creepiness that I didn’t really enjoy. What I loved about Gone Girl was the glimpse of a deeply disturbed and twisted human psyche that destroyed everything it touched. Sharp Objects has this in fucking spades, but it lacks the finesse of Flynn’s later novel.
In Gone Girl, the fallout of everything that happens is fairly contained. Really, only one person ends up dead and the reader is largely spared the gory and graphic details. Don’t expect the same restraint from Sharp Objects; I learned way more than I ever cared to about grief, dead children, mental illness, and self-harm/cutting. Frankly, it’s the cutting that disturbed me the most, but there are also details about the murdered pre-teen girls that I could really have done without.
Now, I enjoy a senselessly gory and graphic horror movie as much as the next person, but I go into them knowing they’re fake and ridiculous. The unsettling thing about Sharp Objects is that it could very easily be someone’s true story. I suppose Gone Girl could really happen too, but I feel like that would be far less devastating. The events of Sharp Objects affect too many people in very far-reaching ways, and the overall feeling when you reach the last page is just an oppressive sense of hopelessness for someone pretty decent.
There is certainly no question that Flynn’s stuff is gold (Jerry), especially in Hollywood. In latest news, Entertainment One is adapting Sharp Objects into a one-hour serialized television drama, and Flynn will serve as an executive producer. Dark Places has apparently wrapped production and stars Charlize Theron as Libby Day and, of course, Gone Girl will be in a theatre near you this October.
So, with everything coming up Flynn it’s probably a good time to start looking into these books if you haven’t already. Please don’t let my underwhelmed reception for Sharp Objects deter you from reading it. These books are undeniably haunting, and while Gone Girl has stayed with me due to its unique twists and delightfully unlikeable characters, I think Sharp Objects will stay with me from sheer creep factor.