The Girls by Emma Cline
Published by Chatto & Windus
Published 14 June 2016
WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT
California. The summer of 1969. In the dying days of a floundering counter-culture a young girl is unwittingly caught up in unthinkable violence, and a decision made at this moment, on the cusp of adulthood, will shape her life….
Evie Boyd is desperate to be noticed. In the summer of 1969, empty days stretch out under the California sun. The smell of honeysuckle thickens the air and the sidewalks radiate heat.
Until she sees them. The snatch of cold laughter. Hair, long and uncombed. Dirty dresses skimming the tops of thighs. Cheap rings like a second set of knuckles. The girls.
And at the centre, Russell. Russell and the ranch, down a long dirt track and deep in the hills. Incense and clumsily strummed chords. Rumours of sex, frenzied gatherings, teen runaways.
Was there a warning, a sign of things to come? Or is Evie already too enthralled by the girls to see that her life is about to be changed forever?
IT BEGINS WITH THE FORD idling up the narrow drive, the sweet drone of honeysuckle thickening the August air.
WHAT I THOUGHT
The Girls is based on The Manson Family. I loved this novel and would highly recommend it. I found Russell and the cult unsettling yet fascinating at times. Russell is portrayed as someone who is charismatic and who has a magnetic personality a certain type of person is drawn to. This explains why Suzanne and Donna and Helena and eventually Evie follow him like little puppy dogs. In real life Manson probably had a similar personality. I found this creepy but fascinating as well. Maybe this explains why serial Richard Ramirez aka The Night Stalker (serial killer, rapist and burglar) had teenage girls throwing their pants at him. Anyway, I digress. I loved the structure of The Girls with chapters set in the present showing Evie, now an old woman forced to confront her past thanks to a group of inquisitive teenagers alternating with chapters about Evie’s past showing how she got involved with Russell because of her crush on Suzanne and how she narrowly avoided being involved in the murders. I was chilled to the bone by how close Evie came to being involved in the murders and how years later she isn’t sure what she would have done if she’d been there. The characterisation is spot on in The Girls and Cline is talented writer. I had a great time with her debut.