The Girls by Emma Cline

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The Girls by Emma Cline

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Amy Etherington
Reviewed by Amy Etherington
Summary: Intriguing and eloquently written, The Girls is dark but thoroughly engrossing. Inspired by the infamous Manson Murders, Emma Cline explores the raw yet dangerous power of human relationships through the eyes of a lonely teenage girl in this beautifully executed début.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 368 Date: June 2016
Publisher: Chatto & Windus
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1784740443

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California. Summer 1969. Fourteen year old Evie Boyd is a thoughtful yet bored teenager from a broken home. The attention she craves is nowhere to be found in the form of her neglectful, serial dating mother, or even in the friendship of her fickle best friend Connie. Abandoned by those around her, Evie's path collides with Suzanne – a mysterious older girl who introduces Evie to a strange yet thrilling new life, offering her the intimate relationship her life back home lacks.

The Girls is a thrilling and beautifully written début novel. The prose is simply engrossing and it's written in an eloquent style that was nothing short of splendid to read. Despite having left my teen years behind, I can strongly remember what it felt like to be Evie's age – to be fourteen and tortured by your own inner turmoil, the making and breaking of friendships, trying to discover your identity and who you want to be. Emma Cline's craftsmanship perfectly captures the teenage mind as Evie learns to make sense of the world around her, and this strange new life she suddenly finds herself in.

While Evie is an interesting and relatable protagonist, the subject matter of the story is dark and perhaps appears scarier since it is told through the eyes of a young girl, whose naïve teenage mind still blinds her to the dangers in society. The story is loosely based on the Manson Murders which took place in California around this time and since it's told in a non-linear narrative, you are fed subtle hints of what will happen and how things will eventually end. The narrative is dreamlike; everything appears hazy which did make the story feel fragmented in parts, but I believe that's how it's meant to be read. The Girls isn't the kind of novel where you try to work out how it will end; you already have a clear understanding of where things are going and the thrill comes from simply how it is written, thanks to Cline's delicate use of language.

Despite being able to appreciate this novel as a stunningly written piece of work, I didn't completely love it. I can't quite pin down why, but the subject matter of the story is not a light one and the explicit scenes concerning sex and drugs did occasionally feel a little heavy. The writing was a pleasure to read even if the context was dark which made the reading experience interesting to say the least. At times it seemed as though not very much was going on - you follow Evie as her friendship with Suzanne develops and the watch as the events she becomes swept up in begin to unfold. It's slow but well-paced, and clever in its build-up of tension. Without revealing too much, the story brilliantly captures the power of human relationships, which is stunningly executed and while at times shocking, I'm glad I had the opportunity to read it.

Thank you to the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this novel sounds like it might interest you, then I would recommend you check out The Invisible Circus by Jennifer Egan or perhaps A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. You might also enjoy The Virgins by Pamela Erens.

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