Monday, 6 June 2016

Isabella's Reading Corner: The Girls

The Girls by Emma Cline
Published June 14th 2016 by Random House
The Girls is told from the point of view of a middle aged woman named Evie, with flashbacks from her life as a 14 year old girl and her indoctrination into a Manson Family-like cult after a chance encounter with one of it's members - Suzanne.
I've always been fascinated by the Manson Family, so I was intrigued to read The Girls. The murders depicted committed by the fictional cult bear many similarities to the Tate killings by members of The Family. Suzanne is reminiscent of Susan (Sadie) Atkins and it's difficult not to make comparisons to other Manson Family members as characters are introduced. Most of the girls in the fictional cult appear to be a composite of the real life Manson girls.
Evie's involvement with the cult is not the whole of the book - far from it. The Girls is essentially a coming of age story and one that is rich in detail. There is an ethereal, hazy quality to the book. You can almost feel the warm, lazy, floaty summer days of California in the 60's.
There is so much background to Evie's story. She's lonely and envious of the bonds people share, made evident when she sees Suzanne for the first time and her closeness with the other girls. When a distance develops between Evie and her best friend, it is clear that she will become involved with the cult, mostly due to her growing fixation with Suzanne. There is a sense of foreboding of what is to come and I wanted to know how far Evie would go.
The comparison to the real life murders and The Family is something that I initially found interesting in the novel, but yet in no way does this detract from the enjoyment of the story for those unfamiliar with them. If anything it is probably beneficial to have little to no knowledge of the real case, as I found myself constantly referring to what I knew about the actual story behind it. In some ways I would have preferred the author to have created her own cult/crimes, as opposed to relying so heavily on Manson's, as it removed some of the author's own creativity. However, saying this, I still felt this was an engrossing, haunting and timely novel that I would recommend.
From the publisher:
Girls—their vulnerability, strength, and passion to belong—are at the heart of this stunning first novel for readers of Jeffrey Eugenides’ 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.

You can read my original Isabella's Reading Corner post on The Girls here.

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for the ebook ARC to review

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