Sharp Objects (2006) by Gillian Flynn is a psychological thriller. You may know her as the author of Gone Girl, the movie of which exploded in 2014. Sharp Objects has this year been made into a TV series by HBO. I loved this novel. It’s disturbing, clever, has a subtle discussion on feminism and mental health and dwells on the concept of mother/daughter relationships.
“It’s one of those crummy towns prone to misery: A bus collision or twister. An explosion at the silo or a toddler down a well”.
It has the flashy, hot topic of ‘munchausen syndrome by proxy‘ which I first heard about through the HBO true crime documentary, Mommy Dead and Dearest. Google defines the disease as such: “Munchausen syndrome by proxy is a mental illness and a form of child abuse. The caretaker of a child, most often a mother, either makes up fake symptoms or causes real symptoms to make it look like the child is sick”.
“They always call depression the blues, but I would have been happy to waken to a periwinkle outlook. Depression to me is urine yellow: washed out, exhausted miles of weak piss”.
Flynn creates suspense in the smallest things. This creepy feeling is what keeps us taught throughout the novel, even when nothing very sinister is happening (although, there is a lot of sinister sh** going down, dw). She uses suspense more than outright fear. We still get chills but the novel is graphic but not gory – part of the reason why I love it. It’s the same reason I loved The Haunting of Hill House and Good Me, Bad Me. The murders are described secondhand but we are never privy to the violent scenes of murder in real time.
“I’m here, I said, and it felt shockingly comforting, those words. When I’m panicked, I say them aloud to myself. I’m here. I don’t usually feel that I am. I feel like a warm gust of wind could exhale my way and I’d be disappeared forever”
It made me think -not just in the omg whodunit way, where i try to figure out the killer – but also about life and women and rape and humanity and violence. A lot of her writing was a subtle critique on society, on our eating habits, on the animal-killing industry etc. Thank God I’m Muslim and already don’t eat pig, I probably would have sworn off bacon either way after reading this. It also prompts discussion on women’s bodies, how they are perceived, how they are supposed to look and act.
“She had a mustache and yellowed fingertips from smoking, matching the brown canines that peeked out from beneath her upper lip. The face you give the world tells the world how to treat you, my mother used to say whenever I resister her grooming. This woman could not be treated well”
In addition to MSP, the mental health discussion also includes PTSD, cutting and depression.
“Every phrase had to be captured on paper or it wasn’t real, it slipped away. I’d see the words hanging midair – Camille, pass the milk – and anxiety coiled up in me as they began to fade, like her exhaust”.
Her writing was exquisite and I never felt that the plot was jarring, I finished it in record time because I could not put it down.
“People got such a charge from seeing their names in print. Proof of existence. I could picture a squabble of ghosts ripping through piles of newspapers. Pointing at a name on the page. See, there I am. I told you I lived. I told you I was”.