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Reviewletts: ‘The Round House’ and ‘Sharp Objects’

It probably was a little weird that read Gillian Flynn’s first novel, Sharp Objects, right after finishing Louise Erdrich’s The Round House, since they’re both pretty dark books and what I wanted most after The Round House was a palate cleanser.But in some respects, Sharp Objects fits that bill since it’s an addictive, fast-paced story, but it’s equally as dark and even more twisted. I any case, I enjoyed the heck out of both these books!

The Round House by Louise Erdrich

the round houseOne Sunday in the spring of 1988, a woman living on a reservation in North Dakota is attacked. The details of the crime are slow to surface as Geraldine Coutts is traumatized and reluctant to relive or reveal what happened, either to the police or to her husband, Bazil, and thirteen-year-old son, Joe. In one day, Joe’s life is irrevocably transformed. He tries to heal his mother, but she will not leave her bed and slips into an abyss of solitude. Increasingly alone, Joe finds himself thrust prematurely into an adult world for which he is ill prepared.

While his father, who is a tribal judge, endeavors to wrest justice from a situation that defies his efforts, Joe becomes frustrated with the official investigation and sets out with his trusted friends, Cappy, Zack, and Angus, to get some answers of his own. Their quest takes them first to the Round House, a sacred space and place of worship for the Ojibwe. And this is only the beginning.

I think the best thing I can say about The Round House is that when I got to the last page I immediately wanted to start it over again to see what I missed the first time around. The book is told from some future point where Joe is looking back on the summer his mother was raped, and this Future Joe makes lots of allusions or hints about what is to come that are cryptic and wonderful and beg to be revisited with the full weight of the story.

More broadly, I think what elevates The Round House above other literary fiction or literary thrillers is the connection to the social and legal issues at stake on a reservation. In particular, the legal loopholes that can exist when it’s not clear where a crime happened (reservation or not) seem so antiquated and insane, it’s impossible not to feel angry for Geraldine and Joe. The Round House was a deeply moving, dark, wonderful read.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

sharp objectsWICKED above her hipbone, GIRL across her heart Words are like a road map to reporter Camille Preaker’s troubled past. Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, Camille’s first assignment from the second-rate daily paper where she works brings her reluctantly back to her hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls.

NASTY on her kneecap, BABYDOLL on her leg
Since she left town eight years ago, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed again in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille is haunted by the childhood tragedy she has spent her whole life trying to cut from her memory.

HARMFUL on her wrist, WHORE on her ankle As Camille works to uncover the truth about these violent crimes, she finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Clues keep leading to dead ends, forcing Camille to unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past to get at the story. Dogged by her own demons, Camille will have to confront what happened to her years before if she wants to survive this homecoming.

In retrospect, it’s totally insane that I followed up The Round House with this book a couple days later, which is both dark and twisted. But it was a Friday night, I was exhausted, and I wanted a book that was engaging and short enough that I could just read it in one sitting. Sharp Objects fit that bill completely. I don’t think this one is as good as Gone Girl — it leans a little heavy on the crime and more lightly on the nuanced psychological drama — but you can see some of the themes about female power and manipulation in this one too. I’m weirdly looking forward to Dark Places to complete the Gillian Flynn trifecta.

Disclosure: I purchased my copy of Sharp Objects and checked out The Round House from my local library. 

Photo Credit: albertogp123 via Flickr

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Diane@BibliophilebytheSea April 17, 2013, 5:12 am

    I liked both of these, and just maybe I liked The Round House even a bit more.

    • Kim April 18, 2013, 6:22 pm

      I liked The Round House more too. It felt more impressive and more serious than Sharp Objects, but I also fell for the characters much harder. It’s a wonderful book.

  • Jennifer April 17, 2013, 8:18 am

    I read, and thoroughly enjoyed, The Round House. I haven’t gotten to Sharp Objects yet but I’m betting that I will. One of these days!

    • Kim April 18, 2013, 6:22 pm

      I liked both of these a lot, for slightly different reasons. I hope you like Sharp Objects when you get to read it!

  • Nikki Steele April 17, 2013, 6:26 pm

    I’m re-reading The Sparrow again and am loving all of the allusions and hints that she’s dropping, much like in The Round House. Have heard amazing things about that book, though it’s still languishing in the TBR pile.

    Maybe it’s me, but I liked Gillian Flynn, but I’m not on the Flynn-express. A bit too much, perhaps? Also, not a huge fan of mysteries. Funny though that I still probably recommend it out more than most of the other books I’ve read.

    • Kim April 18, 2013, 6:15 pm

      I bet The Sparrow would be just wonderful on a reread, with so many rich details.

  • Kristin April 17, 2013, 8:10 pm

    I read Sharp Objects not too long ago and felt the same as you did about it, and I have a copy of The Round House waiting for me… looking forward to reading that one! Thanks for your review.

    • Kim April 18, 2013, 6:14 pm

      I thought The Round House was just amazing. I hope you like it.

  • Rebecca @ Love at First Book April 18, 2013, 5:20 pm

    Did you know that The Round House is apparently a trilogy??? And The Round House is NOT the first book? I only found that out later when I read the book and another blogger commented to tell me!

    Also, while I liked Sharp Objects, I kept thinking, “I miss Gone Girl!”

    • Kim April 18, 2013, 6:14 pm

      I had no idea The Round House was part of a trilogy. What are the prior books? I want to go find them right now.

  • Care April 18, 2013, 5:26 pm

    I was thinking I had Sharp OBjects on my shelf but it is Dark Places that I have. Maybe I should be starting it… I loved the thrill and pace and twisty of Gone Girl.

    • Kim April 18, 2013, 6:13 pm

      Sharp Objects definitely has some of the twistiness of Gone Girl although it seems a little less refined, somehow. But it was still a good read!

  • Aarti April 19, 2013, 7:58 pm

    I loved The Round House! I did NOT know it was part of a trilogy, to reference a comment above. I know Erdrich writes a lot of loosely related books, but I didn’t know that this was one of them.

    I think the book did a lot to bring the travesty of American/tribal law to light. I’m so glad that the government actually passed a bill about Violence Against Women (which was controversial, disgustingly – a lot of the reason being specifically because of laws governing Native American reservations) that helped alleviate this somewhat.

    • Kim April 24, 2013, 6:50 pm

      Apparently is the second one… but now I can’t remember the first book. Something about doves, maybe?

  • Jessica @ Quirky Bookworm April 20, 2013, 9:28 am

    I just bought a used copy of Sharp Object! Hoping to get to it soon…

  • Vera @ Journal of Imaginary People April 20, 2013, 12:46 pm

    I really liked the Roundhouse when I read it, but looking back I think “The Plague of Doves,” which is about a lot of the same characters, is probably better. It doesn’t have the intimacy of the first person that The Roundhouse offers, but instead there are a lot of different perspectives that mesh in interesting places. It’s the novel where Joe’s parents get together.

    And if you’re interested, Erdirch recently wrote an op-ed about the social issues in this novel:

    • Kim April 24, 2013, 6:50 pm

      Thanks for the perspective! I definitely want to read “The Plague of Doves” now that I know it’s loosely connected. And thanks for the op/ed, looks interesting!

  • Allison @ The Book Wheel April 21, 2013, 9:45 pm

    I felt exactly the same way about The Round House – I felt like I missed out on a whole bunch of stuff and wanted to re-read it! I still need to read Sharp Objects, though.

    • Kim April 24, 2013, 6:51 pm

      There were just so many quiet asides, little hints Joe would drop, that at the time I know I was glossing over. I bet they carry a lot more with the full knowledge of the book.

  • Melinda April 22, 2013, 4:27 am

    I must still read Gone Girl, but Sharp Objects does sounds interesting too!

  • susan April 24, 2013, 6:31 am

    Seems like you’ll need a palate cleanser after these 2 dark ones. Thank goodness for Sedaris, eh? cheers.