Thursday, 17 November 2016

Sharp Objects - Gillian Flynn // Book Review

I waited almost a year and a half to read this book. I saw it on the Overdrive in May of 2015, and I decided to put a hold on it - it was only in October of this year was it finally available.

It wouldn't be an understatement to say that I was expecting this book to be incredible. I've never waited a year and a half to read a book before, and I'm not sure why I didn't just reserve a physical copy from the library or buy my own. I think, as time went on, the joke of how long I had been waiting for it stopped me - I wanted to see how long I'd actually wait to get my hands on it. I even remember joking about how long I'd been waiting to read it this time a year ago with a colleague at work, and a few weeks ago started telling people excitedly that I was finally next in line. Unsurprisingly, people's comments tended towards the same as mine: this had better be a damn good book.

Luckily - it was. I love Gone Girl, both book and film, but when I first read the book, I wasn't quite as impressed with it as I grew to be over time. That often happens for me with a book - the older I get, the more I learn, the more I grow to appreciate certain books and stories. I wouldn't have even bothered with Gone Girl at the time, had I not been told that I had to persevere, keep reading, and I'd see my efforts paid off. 

Sharp Objects wasn't like that. It was a slow burning book, edging its way towards a mostly inevitable end - even if you're not quite able to predict it fully - and building, building, building towards disaster. I was almost immediately hooked by this story, and just as quickly connected to Camille. Like Amy Dunne, Camille isn't the most easy woman to get along with as a reader; she often says or thinks things that don't feel appropriate, that you might disagree with. And yet - Camille isn't Amy. They might have a lot of similarities, but Camille is an entirely different woman. I think it'd be impossible not to care about Camille, to sympathise with her, as the novel burns on. Although both women have the damaging influence of how they were raised leading into their adult behaviours, Camille has gone through far worse, survived - albeit with literal as well as figurative scars. Any distance or disgust that Camille might build up around herself, use against both characters and reader, is ultimately a defence against further pain and against the past, and becomes easier to see through and to put aside as her story and her history unfolds. 

In many ways, Sharp Objects was a beautiful book. It was such a well crafted story, heavily focused on character: on history, motivation, influences, and beyond. It's as much a study of the impact of one's relationships in the 'formative' years of youth as it is a thriller, a murder mystery, but that just strengthens your investment in the plot. I was pulled just as deep into the events of Wind Gap as Camille was, and it was hard not to feel what she felt, to understand the ways she had suffered, was still suffering. Reading this book was like watching a car crash in slow motion - in many ways the reader has much in common with Camille's editor, desperately wanting her to get out of the dark and dangerous spiral that she's in, escape from her suffocating home town and be in the company of people who will love her, respect her, who will care selflessly.

This is often an uncomfortable and disturbing read, but I'd thoroughly recommend it to anyone who can handle that, and certainly to anyone who enjoyed Gone Girl.

Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. For years, 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 in her old bedroom in her family's Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming.