Today, we are going to talk about a book that changed your opinion about something. Hmmm.. Is this a trick question? Because, I honestly, truthfully feel that every book I read, every character I meet changes, every fictional world I step into change my opinion about something. I mean, even the disappointing books give me a new perspective on how “disappointing” something can be.
But fine, fine, I get your point. A few of the thought-provoking ones I would choose from would be “The Curious Incident of Dog at Night Time” by Mark Haddon, “The Animal Farm” by George Orwell, or “The Tell-tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe. But, since this book is the most recent one that blew my mind, I would say, “Sharp Objects” by Gillian Flynn.
“Sharp Objects” basically follows Camille Preaker, a newspaper journalist that must return to her hometown to report on a series of brutal murders. The thing is, she has suffered years after the death of sister Marian and was subsequently confined in a psych hospital for self-inflicted harm. Camille not only cuts, but cuts words. She has literally covered almost every inch of herself with words gouged into her own flesh, by her own hand.
In addition, half sister Amma is the “it” girl in town who lives a double life as a perfect Southern daughter to Adora and also the mean girl to the rest of the town. She terrorises those living in the town as she attempts to rule everyone around her. In addition, Adora is their passive aggressive mother who rarely shows any type of emotion towards Camille but treats Amma (and previously Marian) as a doll baby. Together, they form a story about violent, narcissistic, vengeful, and psychopathic woman.
The illustration of these female protagonists is what changed my opinion on how characters and plots can be like. In this book, the characters are mostly female who are damaged, disturbed and demented. Even the children (the dead ones) are screwed up in some way. Plus, the women are decadent in both their cruelty and their passivity, such that even the passivity is cruel. As Amma says, “If someone wants to do fucked-up things to you, and you let them, you’re making them more fucked up.” Yet, this happens over and over. Indeed, every single character is insane and f*cked up. All of them create a complex dark mood all poured into a cauldron of female nastiness. Reading the book and submerging yourself into their story is not healthy at all. But, I’m so happy I did.
Flynn certainly broke the parameters on how psychotic we can create female protagonists. Because of her, it is a persona not limited to just male characters anymore. Indeed, she is very brave in exploring the minds of psychotic women and bringing out the depth of it. I thought it is a subject matter which many will skirt and most will baulk at. Well, it definitely made me squirm. I mean, read this:
“Natalie was buried in the family plot, next to a gravestone that bore her parents’ names. I know the wisdom, that no parents should see their child die…But it’s the only way to truly keep your child. Kids grow up, they forge more potent allegiances. They find a spouse or a lover. They will not be buried with you. The Keenes, however, will remain the purest form of family. Underground.”
In addition, Flynn’s narrative style has a way of creating feelings of shock, dread, and horror in a very subtle way – something that I think a lot of thriller writers fail to do. There was always something off – even in the sexual parts. The story shocked and repulsed me, even as it draws me inexorably into its tangled, sadistic web of deceit, secrets, and horrific revelation. It’s so disturbing but, at the same time, so mesmerising that even though I was so mindf*cked, I just couldn’t stop flipping the pages! And I’m so glad that the final twist gave a macabre finale which tops the whole story off.
Really. I’m still disturbed by the darkness and perversion of the human spirit, as illustrated in this book, and the depths of depravity some are willing to stoop in order to satisfy their baser instincts. And, the thing is, the idea is not even that impossibly far-fetched. You read through it and you can imagine it happening in a town far away, while you are there, lying down on your cotton soft bed, turning the crisp pages of your book. And this idea haunts your head through the night…
“Sometimes I think illness sits inside every woman, waiting for the right moment to bloom.”
Raw and violent; dark and disquieting. I must warn you that this is not a story for the faint of heart. If you’d like to check out how the book is like, you can find the excerpt here.