Friday, June 24, 2016

The Girls by Emma Cline

The Girls by Emma Cline
Release Date - June 14, 2016
Publisher Website - Penguin Random House
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 368 pages
My Rating - 4/5
**received from publisher for an honest review**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
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. 
Every so often a crop of books based on Charles Manson and his followers will crop up. This summer Emma Cline's The Girls is on a whole lot of must read lists and I was instantly curious as a result. I went in expecting the same old story, instead I was treated to a different perspective that took a well trodden story in new directions.

This story is not interested in Russell and men like him. We know the why in his story. That story has been told countless times and is, quite frankly, boring. It's a story of madness, ego, and not at all what Emma Cline decided to focus on. Her focus is, instead, on the girls who follow a man like Russell and the why behind it. It is the story of a specific girl and the why behind her involvement which made it easier to connect to the story. This isn't the easiest of stories to read, especially because you know the true events behind it, but Evie's character manages to break through and resonate a little with the reader.

It's no secret that this novel, obviously, ends in murder. The real life inspiration tells us to expect this. Emma Cline succinctly navigates these events and doesn't allow it to be the focus. We are not in the midst of it, because Evie isn't in the midst of it. We are told, by Evie, what she has heard and knows. This puts the focus back where the author truly wants it to be - the girls in this story. The novel doesn't allow the crime to take centre stage and the novel is all the better for it, in my opinion. It is done in a way that highlights the main character, while still allowing the horror of what happened to resonate. It's a fine line for an author to navigate and Emma Cline does it flawlessly.

There is, for Evie, a thin line that separated her from being one of the ones with blood on their hands. The thinnest of lines. Evie herself wonders, years later, what would have been her role if she had gone. She isn't sure and that is the entire crux of the novel. Evie could be any of them and if we understand Evie, it might not be such a stretch to understand the rest.

The surprising inclusion of making Evie not be fascinated with Russell, but with Suzanne instead, added another layer of deliberate distance to the story. Emma Cline ensured that the focus was who she wanted it to be on at all times. It allowed her to space to create something entirely her own, even if it was inspired by real events.

This novel makes you examine how you perceive these girls and questions the reasons behind their involvement. It, refreshingly, doesn't make excuses for the choices they made, but showcases how it might be possible for someone to make those bad choices. It lingers in that thin space in the in between and walks that edge with precision. Emma Cline is certainly an up and coming voice in fiction and I look forward to reading whatever she writes next.

1 comment:

  1. I have been seeing this book pop up everywhere! It sounds really good too. I may have to pick it up soon! Great review :D


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