Author: Emma Cline
Genre: Fiction/Historical Fiction?
Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong.
I feel like a broken record saying it but, this book has been on my TBR list since it was published a year ago. I’ve seen it displayed in ‘best seller’ sections all year and I finally got around to reading it this week. I was certainly intrigued by the idea of a cult of young women taking acid, cohabitating in 1969, and all worshipping one man (the book is loosely based on the Manson family). However, I wasn’t pulled into the story immediately; at about the half-way mark is when I started reading furiously.
The writing style is unique; Cline gives you the end result, then details how the characters got there. The revelations happen in major and minor ways, for instance, she tells you about the ‘unthinkable violence’ (as described in the synopsis) early on, then explains the build up and what exactly happened. It’s not that I don’t like that particular style of writing, I just think that Cline used it too often. Sometimes I found myself skimming paragraphs since I already knew the gist of what happened.
The New Yorker described her style well in an article about Cline and the novel, “It is a style hospitable to the senses but not especially conducive to thought, to exposition or analysis.” (James Wood at The New Yorker)
The setting switches from 1969 to current day throughout the story, which I enjoyed. I always like reading the ‘where are they now’ type of stories. It’s interesting to see how Evie’s summer of 1969 affected her perspective now that she’s older.
All in all, I liked this book because it was about an interesting topic. I did not love the characters; the mother was flakey and I wasn’t able to understand the pull to Suzanne or Russell. Evie was, eh. We were able to experience the ‘cult’ through Evie, but she was never fully involved, therefore I felt as if I wasn’t getting the full picture as a reader. The ending isn’t necessarily a plot twist, but Cline reveals details about the ‘unthinkable violence’ that weren’t expected; It was a great ending.
About the Author:
The Girls is Emma Cline’s first novel. Even though I didn’t love the book, I’m still pretty impressed that it’s her debut novel. She’s from Northern California and twenty-eight years old. She received the Plimpton Prize from The Paris Review and has had her work published in several renowned magazines. I have heard buzz about a movie adaptation in the works for The Girls!