Emma Cline’s debut novel- The Girls, claims to be loosely based on the Manson murders, it’s more about the women around him, those attracted to life at the edge of the world. Though the book revolves around the blunt facts of Manson’s crimes, it reduces him to a pitiful, failed musician named Russell whose only talent is tending to his wilting garden of devotees. Instead of focusing on the cult group or their leader, the novel is about fourteen-year-old Evie Boyd, who’s attracted to and in love with one of the older girls in Russell’s circle. The book has received an overwhelming response, and is considered as one of the finest books in 2016, all for the right reasons!
Like the name of the book, the cover has a girl with glasses as the cover. Though its available in two different covers, this is the one I had. It a bold combination of blue and burnt red, with the title and the Author’s name on the glasses. There is something about the cover that has your attention. I can’t decide, if it’s good or bad, but the directness of it, and it’s direct connect to the title had me wanting to know more about the book.
The book revolves around the life of fourteen-year-old Evie Boyd, who’s parents have just parted ways. It is set in two different time frames- one where the older Evie is narrating her past, and the other is the time when she is her fourteen year old self. The cult group with whom she spends some time with, and in particular, a girl called Suzanne – who Evie is attracted to are some of the important characters. There is Russel, a musician and the cult leader who has some followers around him, willingly surrendering themselves to him, allured by the strange life he offers are other characters in the book.
Having had a distant relationship with her parents, things go awry when Evie’s parents part ways. A teenager at a threshold of an exciting life that is all about love, lust, attraction and drugs finds herself drawn to Suzanne, a strange girl she first observes at a park, and later meets on many occasions. She is drawn to how carefree, and uninhabited she and her friends are, which leads her to join their cult group, a group drawn to the strange ways of Russel – their leader.
With a mother who is lost in her own life, Evie spends her summer exploring the dangerous world on the other side. The lust, drugs, attractions etc are well within her reach and open to her a new side of life that she was unaware of. As the book progresses, Evie – lost in this heady mix of danger and carelessness makes a mistake and her secret rendezvous comes to an end. Things turn bitter and she realizes that maybe her love for Suzanne will never be returned, and things continue to spiral downwards when this harmless cult resorts to a crime out of desperation and Evie is changed for good.
Told from the perspective of Evie, the writing is simply mind blowing. The way the characters think, the way the reality is portrayed is almost eerie. The Author deserves all the praise she has gotten for the way she peels away the pretentious charade that we all wear and unveils a side we are all unashamed of, but is there nevertheless. The sadistic pleasure that we all indulge in, on hurting someone, the deepest, most shameful, most bitter thoughts are all unraveled with utmost skill. The book is mostly a winner to me due to its writing.
The plot itself is unusual. There may be books written on cult groups, the strange life they embark upon, that draws people to it may be common, but the perspective of a girl who doesn’t have a memorable role in it, that’s new. The girl herself may not have made any difference to the group or the movement, but it talks about how it changed her.
The very real and raw writing gets to you. It crawls all over you, almost showing a mirror to it’s reader – showing that you too have this side to you, that is not too pleasant, but is there just below the fancy facade of the good person you claim to be.
The characters are very well developed and are all very relatable. Especially Evie’s - there is something about her and her life, that everyone can connect to. That lost teenager coming from a broken family, trying to hold onto anyone who would want her and value her is very understandable.
I don’t think I have anything to say here, partly because I am so overwhelmed and blinded by the fantastic plot, characters and writing that I see no flaws, or maybe there aren’t any flaws at all!
This has been my most favorite read this year, and though there are a few months more for the year to close, something tells me that this will remain a favorite. Quite a stunning debut this!
Who do I recommend it to?
Everyone!! ALL OF YOU need to read The Girls! (no matter what genre you like, this book has something for you).
Poor girls. The world fattens them on the promise of love. How badly they need it, and how little most of them ever get…
Death seemed to me like a lobby in a hotel. Some civilized, well lit room that you could easily enter or leave. A boy in town had shot himself in his finished basement after getting caught selling counterfeit raffle tickets. I didn’t think of the gore, the wet insides but only the ease of the moment before he pulled the trigger, how clean and winnowed the world must have seemed. All the disappointments, all of regular life with its punishments and indignities made surplus in ordinary motion.
The things I was good at had no real application: addressing letters in bubble letters with smiling creatures on the flap, making sludgy coffee I drank with grave effect, finding a certain desired song that played on the radio, like a medium scanning for news of the dead.
Living alone was frightening that way. No one to police the spill of yourself, the ways you betrayed your primitive desires. Like a cocoon built around you, made of your own naked proclivities and never tidied into the patterns of actual human life.