Book Review: The Girls

The Girls by Emma Cline

You guys, I recently finished The Girls, and I have a lot of feelings about it.

If you haven’t read anything about it yet, The Girls is Emma Cline’s debut novel. There has been a lot of hype around it – Cline is 27 years old, published in the Paris Review and sold The Girls as part of a three book deal, for $2 million when she was 25. That’s TWO MILLION DOLLARS. AT 25 YEARS OF AGE. The film rights were also sold right before she sealed her book deal and people (the internet) just can’t stop talking about The Girls – and for good reason.

I found it a slow read to start with, reflecting the languid summer of the 1969 setting, but the writing was so beautifully crafted that I couldn’t help but stick with it. Cline perfectly captures the feeling of being on the outer, finally arriving in the inner circle and all not being what it seems – grass is always greener etc. There are touches of The Virgin Suicides, a hint of Sofia Coppola and you can see the film in your mind, overlaid with a sepia hue.

The novel pick up the pace about two thirds in, hurtling towards the inevitable climax. If you’re at all familiar with the Manson murders, you’ll know what’s coming. If you’re not familiar with Charles Manson et al, I suggest a skim of their Wikipedia entry before you read The Girls. It’s not 100% essential, but you’ll probably enjoy the novel a bit more if you know where it’s headed. Cline’s language and pacing does rely a little on the reader knowing what is coming, but like I said – you’ll enjoy it even if you can’t bring yourself to read up a little.

The novel perfectly captures the feeling of a languorous summer, passing by at a lonely pace. I found myself frustrated with Evie, the main character, but I think that’s part of what Cline is trying to do  – to transport the reader back to the uncertainty of teenage-hood, wanting nothing more than to be included, know her place in the world and connect with someone on a deeper level than the superficial interactions of everyday life. In this case, it manifests in Evie falling in with a crowd of girls (big surprise) who are lost and brainwashed by a Charles Manson stand in.

The more distance I’ve had from this novel (I finished it about ten days ago), the more I marvel at it. I haven’t stopped thinking about it and the moment in which Evie realised how very wrong things could have gone for her. It’s stuck with me in a way that books rarely do anymore – especially given my initial lukewarm reaction to it! I’m now recommending it left, right and centre.

What have you read lately? x

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