The Girls by Emma Cline
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.
Atmosphere is abundant in this novel and is the main reasons the novel achieves success. We feel exactly how boring and frustrating Evie’s life is, how intoxicating life at the ranch is for a young girl, and all of the confusion of Evie’s blossoming sexuality.
That said, for all of the build-up, the novel lacks a significant moment of climax. In fact, Evie avoids the climax of the novel, sliding past it and back into something resembling her old life. The writing is fantastic and I had a hard time putting this book down…but the book is more of a tumult of feelings and atmosphere than a plot hurtling towards an inevitable climax.
I’m probably being a bit hard on this book because it was given a 7-figure advance, which is an astronomical amount of money for anybody, let alone a writer. So, in the end, I have to ask myself if it was worth the 7-figure advance. And that answer is no. Unless the giving of a 7-figure advance is not something assigned by merit, but randomly assigned, since inevitably the rumor of a book being worth over a million dollars will inevitably make copies fly off the shelves. That and explaining that the book is based on Charles Manson’s Cult and the infamous murders they committed.
It’s not a bad book, I really did enjoy it and would recommend it especially if you liked Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. It’s that atmosphere thing again. But I don’t think it was worth 7-figures. When I think of books in my mind worth that amount, I inevitably think of beautiful, sprawling behemoths that transcend genre: The Historian, The Passage, and All the Light We Cannot See. The Girls is a great book, but an average great book. Average in length and average in plot. I expect it will be a book I recommend for awhile, but eventually forget about as new and more exciting books take its place.
Click here to buy from Amazon: The Girls