Study Guide

Sharp Objects

By Gillian Flynn

Sharp Objects Introduction

Gillian Flynn must be hiding something. She is way too good at getting into the heads of sociopaths and then making us relate to them in such a way that it feels normal…until you put the book down and re-enter reality. In Sharp Objects, Flynn's freshman debut (believe it or not), she puts us smack in the middle of a truly messed up family, and leads us down a rabbit hole we’d rather not explore so deeply.

Camille Preaker is a struggling journalist, fresh out of a mental institution, who is sent to her hometown to cover a story about dead and missing girls. Small-town intrigue and psychological torments abound...until you’re left wondering when the world got so dark and dreary.

When it was published in 2006, Flynn won several awards, gaining the attention of crime thriller-lovers everywhere. In fact, Sharp Objects was the first book ever to win two Dagger awards in one year (the New Blood Fiction Dagger and the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, to be specific). Yeah. It’s that good.

Actually, it was so compelling that HBO opted to make it into an 8-part miniseries that aired in 2018. Amy Adams, who plays the lead role, likes to say that it was a miniseries instead of a movie, because Camille Preaker was too complex for something to be encapsulated in only two hours. It’s totally binge-worthy; we recommend it. After you read the book, of course.

So if you get a kick out of dark and disturbing (as Flynn apparently does), you’ll be glad to know she went on to write two more books that are equally thrilling: Dark Places and Gone Girl. If you’re so inclined, you could just binge-read all her stuff, but, um, maybe take a break in-between to read something on the lighter side. Your mental health will thank you.

What is Sharp Objects About and Why Should I Care?

Unless you’re a Women’s Studies major, you’ve probably never heard of the Bechdel Test.

(No, wait! Come back! This is interesting. We promise.)

The Bechdel Test (typically applied to movies) is a measure of the representation of women in fiction. To pass the test, a movie or book needs to have three requirements: 1) It has to have at least two [named] women characters 2) who talk to each other 3) about something besides a man.

This sounds pretty simple, but you’d be shocked at the number of popular films that can’t pass this test. (Check out this short video for some examples.)

Sharp Objects passes the test with flying colors, as do Gillian Flynn’s other novels. This is not common in the crime/thriller genre, let alone fiction in general, so while the subject is dark, the book can be pretty refreshing to read. We don’t know about you, but we’d like to see a lot more books and movies that pass this test, too.

Sharp Objects Resources

Websites

Gillian Flynn’s Webpage
She’s had some pretty terrible summer jobs.

Rotten Tomatoes Thinks the Series Is Swell
HBO does a pretty good job.

Movie or TV Productions

HBO’s Sharp Objects
We really, really like this adaptation.

Articles and Interviews

Gillian gabs with the Gazette
Our favorite author talks about how she “keeps the crazy” in the basement. Literally?

Gillian Flynn Attracts Powerful Women
…to work on her projects. Geez. What did you think we meant?

Video

From The Source: Gillian Flynn
It’s a sub-link on the HBO main page, but make sure you check out this brief interview with the woman herself on adapting the book to a mini-series.

Audio

NPR Never Disappoints
A quick review of Sharp Objects at the time of the HBO miniseries debut.

“Not My Job”
A hysterical game in which they ask Flynn all about Gilligan’s Island.

Images

Book Cover
Flynn (or her publisher) likes to keep it simple.

The Woman: The Legend
She writes excellent novels and she photographs well. Life isn’t fair.