Review: The Girls by Emma Cline
Published June 14th, 2016 by Random House.
Girls—their vulnerability, strength, and passion to belong—are at the heart of this stunning first novel for readers of Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Virgin Suicides and Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad.
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.
Emma Cline’s remarkable debut novel is gorgeously written and spellbinding, with razor-sharp precision and startling psychological insight. The Girls is a brilliant work of fiction—and an indelible portrait of girls, and of the women they become. (Goodreads)
Trigger warnings: rape, violence, abuse, cult culture
The Girls promised to be loosely based on the Mason cult group of the 1960’s. I heard that the author did a bunch of research for this book. I don’t think it paid off. For starters, the writing itself was overwritten and the stream of consciousness narrative took some getting used to. Approximately 20% through the book I adjusted to the writing and the story was interesting but in the end, I’m not sure of the point. The Girls is narrated by Evie. She tells us two stories. What she is currently doing and the more interesting story about the summer of 1969 when she was 14 yrs old and met a group of girls who were nomads and runaways that belonged to a “family” living on a ranch with their leader, Russell. Evie is drawn to these girls because they are beautiful, carefree and accepting, but especially because of Suzanne. Evie develops a sort of crush on Suzanne that fails to develop into anything worth mentioning.
Instead of the historical fictionalized tale of the Mason girls, I got a confused 14 yr old living in a mundane hippie commune with drugs, little food, nomads, runaways, underage sex, hand me downs, and filth. Not at all what I was expecting. Reading about life on the ranch was interesting in so much as I was expecting to eventually get more action. That never happened.
I was provided an e-copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my review.