Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn received the sort of meteoric success that had many readers assuming it was a debut by a new novelist with a lot of potential. The dark thriller featured a strong but imperfect female protagonist and was adapted for the big screen in 2014. I loved Gone Girl, although found the film somewhat disappointing. I was looking forward to reading more by Flynn but when a new novel didn’t appear quickly enough a little research helped me to discover that Flynn has in fact written two previous novels, Sharp Objects and Dark Places.
In Sharp Objects there is the similar theme of femininity and identity, Camille Preaker is forced to go home after years away. The disappearance of two girls in her small home town is seen by her newspaper editor as too good a chance of a story for Camille to ignore. Therefore she is forced to go looking for the truth. Her return opens her eyes to the darkly unusual childhood she had. Looking into the disappearance of the girls, Camille becomes certain that the assumption the crimes were committed by a man is wrong.
This is a novel which takes an unflinching view of femininity and social pressure, of adolescence gone wrong and the stifling reality of small town living. It suggests that the impact of abuse can last for generations and that a whole town can be implicated in the actions of an individual.
I found Camille to be a very unique character, she is damaged but not self pitying and she bucks the trend of the perfect, strong female character that seems to fill this genre at the moment. She is far from perfect and this is true of all of the characters in the book. None of them are completely free from guilt and none of them are truly likeable. This is an often grisly book which is sometimes difficult to read. However, the ending is very clever and the plot is well crafted so that you’ll think you’ve guessed the ending, but really you haven’t. I actually think this novel is better than Gone Girl as it avoids more of the troupes and stereotypes of thrillers written about and for women.
I really enjoyed this dark thriller and would definitely recommend.