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Sharp Objects
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Archived VBC Selections > Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn - VBC January 2013

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Vicki (vickivanv) | 282 comments Mod
Welcome to 2013 and to our first discussion pick of the year--Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. In it, a journalist returns to her hometown to report on the search for a missing child, facing increasing strain on her frayed psyche as she is reabsorbed into the twisted web of her family's household. Flynn is perhaps better known for her most recent novel, Gone Girl, which was one of 2012's biggest biblio-hits, another tale that will make you want to hug your normal, boring loved ones.

What did you think of SO? If you want to also throw in some thoughts on or comparisons with GG, that's fine, but just keep any musings on GG spoiler-free.


message 2: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Gremore | 1 comments I picked Sharp Objects up because I enjoy a good psychological thriller and after having read Flynn's Gone Girl I couldn't wait to get my hands on another one of her books. I am amazed Sharp Objects is a debut piece of work.

I almost feel like a "bad" person Lol for liking this book (as it is dark) but it was addictive, never losing its momentum like so many novels do.

It was like a roller coaster ride, when near the end I 'got off" for a few minutes to catch my breath before the final fall.

This is the only work of fiction, aside from Steinbeck's, character Cathy, in Grapes of Wrath that actually displays distinct features of evil. I very much enjoyed seeing this in fiction form. Flynn also does an excellent job at depicting mental illness. I have one more of her's yet to read. I hope she keeps writing!


message 3: by Camilla (new)

Camilla | 68 comments This is the first discussion book I've been able to read in tandem with everyone else in months - maybe even a year. So I have to say I'm a little disappointed that it's *this* book.

I don't like any of the characters. Except maybe the police officer from out of town. I agree with Lisa in that it's an excellent depiction of evil. However, I'm finding it chilling, disturbing, and frankly not terribly enjoyable! I'll keep reading though, because I want to know if my hunch is correct.

And when I finish it I'll read a nice "cosy" to settle myself :). I think perhaps I'm just not in the right state of mind to appreciate something so dark.


message 4: by PatF (last edited Jan 08, 2013 07:28AM) (new)

PatF Floyd Millie, I'm so glad to see that you're able to read along with the group because that means things are going well with your family.

As luck would have it, I've decided not to read this one for the reasons you've cited along with other things going on in my life right now that call for a different kind of recreational reading. In fact, I've just been rereading some Dana Stabenow. We almost never have snow here anymore, so what could be better than spending some time in Alaska?


Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
I was just thinking of doing some rereads with Kate Shugak, Pat! Particularly since she has a new one out next month, so I was thinking I should get in the mood by catching up on the last book =)

I have Sharp Objects sitting on my coffee table right now waiting to be read. But I've been reading Anne McCaffrey instead this week. I'll get to our discussion book shortly, though!


message 6: by KarenB (new)

KarenB | 352 comments I'm going to bow out of this month's discussion. The book isn't available through my library or interlibrary loan and it really doesn't seem like one I want to buy. I'm not in a mental place where I want to be reading evil.


message 7: by Camilla (new)

Camilla | 68 comments Good call Karen, and Pat. I really didn't enjoy it. I've read dark stuff before, and while its not my favourite, I can usually take something away. Not this one. I felt unpleasant and "icky" while I was reading it.

But on the up side, I'm now reading books I missed while they were being discussed. I can't get The Glass Sided Ant's Nest on my kindle, so I'm reading Gods of Gotham. MUCH more my style! I'm not very far into it but I'm very much enjoying it.


message 8: by Sabrina (new)

Sabrina Flynn | 1158 comments Mod
Eeek, yeah... I read the book description and the freebie pages on Amazon, and decided this book wasn't for me either.

While I've read books with disturbing content before... there's just something doubly depressing when the protagonist is completely screwed up too. I like my protagonists to be little rays of light in the darkness! Not to say that they can't have issues, but the protagonist in Sharp Objects makes tying her shoes sound like a chore.

Reading the reviews of Sharp Objects made me kind of curious about the mother pig scene. Was it that bad?

Does anyone else get annoyed by the mainstream style of prose? I don't know what else to call it, but it's like a bunch of catchy one-liners all strung together, and if I was a cat, then my ears would be twitching.


message 9: by Erin (last edited Jan 17, 2013 05:24PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Seems like no one liked this book! Which I find interesting just given how popular the author is right now. Kind of killing discussion on the boards this month =\ Sorry about that, guys!

But I think we can be chatty about this without having to actually talk about plot particulars. Take an existential view. It occurred to me that another relatively recent crazy-popular book was equally disturbing; The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Why do you think the disturbing books are so popular? Often more popular than the cozies, it seems (I can't think of very many cozies that hit the best seller lists anyway).


message 10: by Erin (new) - rated it 4 stars

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Sabrina wrote: "Does anyone else get annoyed by the mainstream style of prose? I don't know what else to call it, but it's like a bunch of catchy one-liners all strung together, and if I was a cat, then my ears would be twitching. "

Totally! One that completely turned me off just on the prose style was The Road; all the single word sentences...blarg! I think I read like a chapter and then tossed it aside as not for me.


message 11: by Elisabeth (new)

Elisabeth | 113 comments I didn't read the book, but Erin's question got my attention. I strongly disliked The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo precisely because of the violence, and that's why I didn't pick this one up. I honestly don't know why such things are so popular. What's to enjoy about people being horrible to each other? What are readers supposed to get out of it?
Dragon Tattoo at least was beautifully written, but it wasn't enough to make me like the book or glad that I read it.


message 12: by Erin (new) - rated it 4 stars

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Do you think it's maybe a thriller vs. mystery distinction? There's always someone being treated scarily/horribly in thrillers. Or maybe that's horror-thrillers? I'm thinking torturous serial killer books like the Tony Hills from Val McDermid or The Alienist from Caleb Carr. Silence of the Lambs. The scary books. There's often at least a few chapters focusing on the killer, getting inside the killer's head. And I know that's often the reason that readers will dislike that kind of book.

I suppose that POV is meant to make the crime that much more real for the reader. And thus the solving of the crime that much more crucial. Heightened emotional investment in the story?

Come to think of it, horror movies/stories are so so popular as well and I've never been able to wrap my head around the fascination of those. The focus seems like it's placed even less on the stopping of the bad guy than on the terror of the victims in the movies. At least in disturbing thriller novels the bad guy is usually killed or otherwise dealt with.


message 13: by Camilla (new)

Camilla | 68 comments I think there's an element of voyeurism. For me, the major difference between this book and, say, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is that the protagonist was completely unlikable. I didn't care what happened to her, and I didn't care if the mystery was solved or not.

Like Erin and Sabrina, I didn't care for the style of the prose. It felt stilted and as though the author was trying to hard to be "clever", for want of a better term.

I like some thrillers - Tess Gerritsen, for example. But although I am a big fan of Val McDermid's other works, I can't bring myself to read the Tony Hill books. I'm not sure why that is, when some of the Tess Gerritsen books are very disturbing.


message 14: by Margaret (new)

Margaret | 128 comments Interesting comment, Erin. I was fascinated by "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" even as I hated the violence. I guess sympathy with the two protagonists held me. The sequels were less attractive and more abhorrent. But then I'm a wimp when it comes to watching people suffer.


message 15: by Lenore (new)

Lenore | 1079 comments Based on the negative comments about Sharp Objects, I didn't even bother to try it. But as much as I do not like explicit violence, I was not put off by the "Dragon Tattoo" series. I think that was because the author was exploring two serious issues, violence against women (both commercial and pathological) and the treatment of (supposedly) incapacitated adults. (I have a professional interest in the latter topic.) I sort of think that, although the books are clearly entertainments rather than treatises, the seriousness of purpose justified the violence.


message 16: by Sabrina (new)

Sabrina Flynn | 1158 comments Mod
Erin wrote: Totally! One that completely turned me off just on the prose style was The Road; all the single word sentences...blarg! I think I read like a chapter and then tossed it aside as not for me.

Wow... I read the first page of The Road, and it was really sort of disjointed to me. Is the whole thing like that?

I've always wondered if Editors are pushing this style of prose on Authors, and then the reading public just ingests what ever they're fed, or if this type of writing style is really what people want. It seems like books written in this style of prose have more of a tendency to go mainstream. Maybe it's a result of shortened attention spans in readers?


message 17: by Lenore (new)

Lenore | 1079 comments That readers have a shorter attention span is a possibility. A few years ago I went to a seminar on writing for the courts of appeal, and one of the speakers talked about how the internet has changed the way people read, and he had suggestions about modifying one's writing style accordingly.


message 18: by Sabrina (new)

Sabrina Flynn | 1158 comments Mod
Erin wrote: "Do you think it's maybe a thriller vs. mystery distinction? There's always someone being treated scarily/horribly in thrillers. Or maybe that's horror-thrillers? I'm thinking torturous serial ki..."

Great questions, Erin. I don't get the fascination with horror movies either, and they are so popular! I feel sick when I see the previews, and wonder what is wrong with people.

I didn't read the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, because I couldn't take the writing style, but I did watch the Swedish movies. I read the Alienist too, and actually found the whole process of building the killers profile fascinating. Gods of Gotham had a pretty gruesome storyline, but I enjoyed that immensely, so for me...

I think it's a matter of Good vs Evil. Dr Laszlo, Timothy Wilde, and Lisbeth, are all forces of good who are fighting against evil. They're the type of protagonists who aren't hunting down criminals because they have to, or it's part of their job, but because they have a strong sense of justice.

I don't know about the protagonist in Sharp Objects, but I realized that's why I didn't much care for last month's book. The Inspector seemed more concerned with his lunch at times. Whereas, someone like Sherlock Holmes, throws everything he has at the criminal.


message 19: by Erin (new) - rated it 4 stars

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Sabrina wrote: "Whereas, someone like Sherlock Holmes, throws everything he has at the criminal. "

Holmes is funny like that. There's all the talk about having the perfectly logical mind that is detached and not influenced by emotion, etc, but he's a pretty emotional person. That whole idea that the only things that can truly make you angry are those you care about. If you were really disconnected and didn't care, you wouldn't be angry.

And conversely, if you don't care enough about the crime to be even remotely emotional/angry/invested, are you really going to get to the bottom of things? Or are you going to stop at the first possible solution you come to. Are you doing the assignment just to get the assignment done and off your to-do list, or do you actually want to know the answer?

Personally, I'd much rather have a passionate detective in my corner.


message 20: by PatF (last edited Jan 22, 2013 04:57PM) (new)

PatF Floyd I agree with those who want a likeable protagonist. I didn't like Lisbeth of the Dragon Tattoo so didn't continue the series.

I'm concerned about the amount of graphic violence and horror in our society. Perhaps most damaging is that it can fill people's--especially young people's--time and minds, not leaving time for positive and interesting information, humor, beauty, and high aspirations. At worst, it may lead some to perpetrate violence.

A Swedish author I like is Helene Tursten. Five of her books are now available in English: Detective Inspector Huss, The Torso, The Glass Devil, Night Rounds, The Golden Calf. Her protagonist, Inspector Huss, is a mother of teenage twins. The Torso was more gruesome than I like. I'm on the library waiting list for The Golden Calf.


message 21: by Sabrina (new)

Sabrina Flynn | 1158 comments Mod
Erin wrote: Holmes is funny like that. There's all the talk about having the perfectly logical mind that is detached and not influenced by emotion, etc, but he's a pretty emotional person. That whole idea that the only things that can truly make you angry are those you care about. If you were really disconnected and didn't care, you wouldn't be angry.

So true, Erin! And I think that goes for any profession. It's the people who are passionate about their field of work that excel, whether it's teachers, doctors, or even plumbers!


message 22: by Erin (new) - rated it 4 stars

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
I've been noticing while reading this that Flynn seems to walk this line between describing things with really great detail so you get the full experience of being there. Sights, sounds, smells.

And then, jarringly, she throws in something that's just a little gross and TMI. For example, in the first chapter where the main character is talking about how she always takes baths, but the hotel she's in only has a shower stall, so she blocks up the drain and the door jam to try and get some bath-like effect. ...and then throws in a comment about someone else's hair floating by. I can't figure out if she's writing in these TMI details to be jarring on purpose (for the shock value?) or for some other reason. Like we get a view of how screwed up the main character is from all the TMI details that she decides to share?

Anyway, that's been bugging me while reading today, so I thought I'd throw it out into the discussion.


message 23: by Erin (new) - rated it 4 stars

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Sharp Objects has been one of those books that's taken me a lot longer to read than it's page count really warrants. I'm about two-thirds through now and it's taken me like two weeks to get that far; reading in small bites. But I'm far enough in that I'm at this point where I really want to talk about the book...except everyone here has either opted out or disliked it so much that they don't want to talk about it. Except I think that's WHY I want to talk about it!

I suppose I feel more of a need to verbalize what bothers me in a book that I find is well written but not enjoyable than what I like about an enjoyable book. If that makes any sense.


message 24: by Lenore (new)

Lenore | 1079 comments I understand completely -- it's why I posted about TGSAN after everyone else had moved on. But I can't help you here because, aside from the fact that it really did sound unappealing to me, it doesn't seem to be available in audio, and I just don't have time this month to sit down and read.


message 25: by Sabrina (new)

Sabrina Flynn | 1158 comments Mod
Erin wrote: "Sharp Objects has been one of those books that's taken me a lot longer to read than it's page count really warrants. I'm about two-thirds through now and it's taken me like two weeks to get that f..."

Sorry, Erin! I did read the part about the shower in the Amazon sample... I'd say the author was going for the blunt honest truth, but then I read the part about the nasty photographs and well... what she felt the need to do afterwards. Then there was the comment about men wanting to put things in women and I had this feeling that the author wanted to make her protagonist as miserable a wreck as possible, and in turn, make the reader fairly miserable.

I was thinking on other books that I've read where the protagonists weren't the happiest people in the world. Folly came to mind, and Little Bee.

Rae in Folly was pretty messed up, and yet she was fighting for her sanity, and the reader was right there fighting alongside her. Somehow, this managed to be very inspiring despite everything that happened.

I found Little Bee to be pretty depressing as far as the American protagonist went. There was a lot of blunt honesty in the book, and she was supposed to be a strong, confident woman, but honestly, instead of an inner struggle with turmoil, it felt like the author was... I don't know, whining or something. I had this same feeling with the parts I read of Sharp Objects.

Have you gotten to the pig part? I kept seeing it mentioned in the reviews.


message 26: by Erin (new) - rated it 4 stars

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Sabrina wrote: "Rae in Folly was pretty messed up, and yet she was fighting for her sanity, and the reader was right there fighting alongside her. Somehow, this managed to be very inspiring despite everything that happened. "

I think that's part of what makes Camille an unliked protagonist in this book. It doesn't really seem like she's really fighting for anything. She internalizes everything and you can tell that's been slowly ruining her since she was a kid. And I realized that she's a really unreliable narrator because of that; her view of life and people has become so warped and cynical that even people who start out looking like nice people end up being portrayed as terrible people (whether they are or not...which is hard to say!).

The more I read about her issues, the more angry I get with her boss. It was totally cruel to send her back to her hometown and her family. Yeah, there's not really any way for him to have known that it would be that bad for her to face again (even though she went very grudgingly), but I think it was rather naive of him to not put two and two together as her upbringing being a contributing factor in her mental instability (which we know he knows the extent of because he visited her in rehab).

Sabrina wrote: "Have you gotten to the pig part? I kept seeing it mentioned in the reviews."

Yeah I'm past that part (unless there are two such scenes!). It's totally in line with the first two scenes you mentioned (the shower and the photographs). The all seem to serve very little purpose outside of shock value. I get the feeling that Flynn really wants the reader to have their skin crawling for this book. There's no other reason I can think of to include those particular details; they don't even really further any kind of characterization. I wonder what the reaction to the book would have been without those handful of TMI moments, since those are what reviewers are all hung-up on for this book.


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