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THE INSTANT BESTSELLER • An indelible portrait of girls, the women they become, and that moment in life when everything can go horribly wrong

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The Washington Post • NPR • The Guardian • Entertainment Weekly • San Francisco Chronicle • Financial Times • Esquire • Newsweek • Vogue • Glamour • People • The Huffington Post • Elle • Harper’s Bazaar • Time Out • BookPage • Publishers Weekly • Slate

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.

Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize • Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Award • Shortlisted for The Center for Fiction First Novel Prize • The New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice • Emma Cline—One of Granta’s Best of Young American Novelists

Praise for The Girls

“Spellbinding . . . a seductive and arresting coming-of-age story.” The New York Times Book Review

“Extraordinary . . . Debut novels like this are rare, indeed.” The Washington Post

“Hypnotic.” —The Wall Street Journal

“Gorgeous.” —Los Angeles Times

“Savage.” —The Guardian

“Astonishing.” —The Boston Globe

“Superbly written.” —James Wood, The New Yorker

“Intensely consuming.” —Richard Ford

“A spectacular achievement.” —Lucy Atkins, The Times

“Thrilling.” —Jennifer Egan

“Compelling and startling.” —The Economist

Review

“Spellbinding . . . A seductive and arresting coming-of-age story hinged on Charles Manson, told in sentences at times so finely wrought they could almost be worn as jewelry . . . [Emma] Cline gorgeously maps the topography of one loneliness-ravaged adolescent heart. She gives us the fictional truth of a girl chasing danger beyond her comprehension, in a Summer of Longing and Loss.” The New York Times Book Review

“[ The Girls reimagines] the American novel . . . Like Mary Gaitskill’s Veronica or Lorrie Moore’s Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?, The Girls captures a defining friendship in its full humanity with a touch of rock-memoir, tell-it-like-it-really-was attitude.” Vogue

“Debut novels like this are rare, indeed. . . . The most remarkable quality of this novel is Cline’s ability to articulate the anxieties of adolescence in language that’s gorgeously poetic without mangling the authenticity of a teenager’s consciousness. The adult’s melancholy reflection and the girl’s swelling impetuousness are flawlessly braided together. . . . For a story that traffics in the lurid notoriety of the Manson murders, The Girls is an extraordinary act of restraint. With the maturity of a writer twice her age, Cline has written a wise novel that’s never showy: a quiet, seething confession of yearning and terror.” The Washington Post

“Outstanding . . . Cline’s novel is an astonishing work of imagination—remarkably atmospheric, preternaturally intelligent, and brutally feminist. . . . Cline painstakingly destroys the separation between art and faithful representation to create something new, wonderful, and disorienting.” The Boston Globe

“Finely intelligent, often superbly written, with flashingly brilliant sentences, . . . Cline’s first novel, The Girls, is a song of innocence and experience. . . . In another way, though, Cline’s novel is itself a complicated mixture of freshness and worldly sophistication. . . . At her frequent best, Cline sees the world exactly and generously. On every other page, it seems, there is something remarkable—an immaculate phrase, a boldly modifying adverb, a metaphor or simile that makes a sudden, electric connection between its poles. . . . Much of this has to do with Cline’s ability to look again, like a painter, and see (or sense) things better than most of us do.” The New Yorker

“Breathtaking . . . So accomplished that it’s hard to believe it’s a debut. Cline’s powerful characters linger long after the final page.” Entertainment Weekly (Summer Must List)

“A mesmerizing and sympathetic portrait of teen girls.” People (Summer’s Best Books)

The Girls isn’t a Wikipedia novel, it’s not one of those historical novels that congratulates the present on its improvements over the past, and it doesn’t impose today’s ideas on the old days. As the smartphone-era frame around Evie’s story implies, Cline is interested in the Manson chapter for the way it amplifies the novel’s traditional concerns. Pastoral, marriage plot, crime story—the novel of the cult has it all.” New York Magazine

About the Author

Emma Cline was the winner of The Paris Review’s Plimpton Prize in 2014. She is from California.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Adapted from THE GIRLS by Emma Cline, available everywhere June 14th, 2016.

I looked up because of the laughter, and kept looking because of the girls.
 
I noticed their hair first, long and uncombed. Then their jewelry catching the sun. The three of them were far enough away that I saw only the periphery of their features, but it didn’t matter—I knew they were different from everyone else in the park. Families milling in a vague line, waiting for sausages and burgers from the open grill. Women in checked blouses scooting into their boyfriends’ sides, kids tossing eucalyptus buttons at the feral-looking chickens that overran the strip. These long-haired girls seemed to glide above all that was happening around them, tragic and separate. Like royalty in exile.
 
I studied the girls with a shameless, blatant gape: it didn’t seem possible that they might look over and notice me. My hamburger was forgotten in my lap, the breeze blowing in minnow stink from the river. It was an age when I’d immediately scan and rank other girls, keeping up a constant tally of how I fell short, and I saw right away that the black-haired one was the prettiest. I had expected this, even before I’d been able to make out their faces. There was a suggestion of otherworldliness hovering around her, a dirty smock dress barely covering her ass. She was flanked by a skinny redhead and an older girl, dressed with the same shabby afterthought. As if dredged from a lake. All their cheap rings like a second set of knuckles. They were messing with an uneasy threshold, prettiness and ugliness at the same time, and a ripple of awareness followed them through the park. Mothers glancing around for their children, moved by some feeling they couldn’t name. Women reaching for their boyfriends’ hands. The sun spiked through the trees, like always—the drowsy willows, the hot wind gusting over the picnic blankets—but the familiarity of the day was disturbed by the path the girls cut across the regular world. Sleek and thoughtless as sharks breaching the water.
 
1
 
It was the end of the sixties, or the summer before the end, and that’s what it seemed like, an endless, formless summer. The Haight populated with white-garbed Process members handing out their oat-colored pamphlets, the jasmine along the roads that year blooming particularly heady and full. Everyone was healthy, tan, and heavy with decoration, and if you weren’t, that was a thing, too—you could be some moon creature, chiffon over the lamp shades, on a kitchari cleanse that stained all your dishes with turmeric.
 
But that was all happening somewhere else, not in Petaluma with its low-hipped ranch houses, the covered wagon perpetually parked in front of the Hi-Ho Restaurant. The sun-scorched crosswalks. I was fourteen but looked much younger. People liked to say this to me. Connie swore I could pass for sixteen, but we told each other a lot of lies. We’d been friends all through junior high, Connie waiting for me outside classrooms as patient as a cow, all our energy subsumed into the theatrics of friendship. She was plump but didn’t dress like it, in cropped cotton shirts with Mexican embroidery, too-tight skirts that left an angry rim on her upper thighs. I’d always liked her in a way I never had to think about, like the fact of my own hands.
 
Come September, I’d be sent off to the same boarding school my mother had gone to. They’d built a well-tended campus around an old convent in Monterey, the lawns smooth and sloped. Shreds of fog in the mornings, brief hits of the nearness of salt water. It was an all-girls school, and I’d have to wear a uniform—low-heeled shoes and no makeup, middy blouses threaded with navy ties. It was a holding place, really, enclosed by a stone wall and populated with bland, moon-faced daughters. Camp Fire Girls and Future Teachers shipped off to learn 160 words a minute, shorthand. To make dreamy, overheated promises to be one another’s bridesmaids at Royal Hawaiian weddings.
 
My impending departure forced a newly critical distance on my friendship with Connie. I’d started to notice certain things, almost against my will. How Connie said, “The best way to get over someone is to get under someone else,” as if we were shopgirls in London instead of inexperienced adolescents in the farm belt of Sonoma County. We licked batteries to feel a metallic jolt on the tongue, rumored to be one-eighteenth of an orgasm. It pained me to imagine how our twosome appeared to others, marked as the kind of girls who belonged to each other. Those sexless fixtures of high schools.
 
Every day after school, we’d click seamlessly into the familiar track of the afternoons. Waste the hours at some industrious task: following Vidal Sassoon’s suggestions for raw egg smoothies to strengthen hair or picking at blackheads with the tip of a sterilized sewing needle. The constant project of our girl selves seeming to require odd and precise attentions.
 
As an adult, I wonder at the pure volume of time I wasted. The feast and famine we were taught to expect from the world, the countdowns in magazines that urged us to prepare thirty days in advance for the first day of school.
 
Day 28: Apply a face mask of avocado and honey.
 
Day 14: Test your makeup look in different lights (natural, office, dusk).
 
Back then, I was so attuned to attention. I dressed to provoke love, tugging my neckline lower, settling a wistful stare on my face whenever I went out in public that implied many deep and promising thoughts, should anyone happen to glance over. As a child, I had once been part of a charity dog show and paraded around a pretty collie on a leash, a silk bandanna around its neck. How thrilled I’d been at the sanctioned performance: the way I went up to strangers and let them admire the dog, my smile as indulgent and constant as a salesgirl’s, and how vacant I’d felt when it was over, when no one needed to look at me anymore.
 
I waited to be told what was good about me. I wondered later if this was why there were so many more women than men at the ranch. All that time I had spent readying myself, the articles that taught me life was really just a waiting room until someone noticed you—the boys had spent that time becoming themselves.
 
Adapted from THE GIRLS by Emma Cline. Copyright © 2016 by Emma Cline. Reprinted by arrangement with Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.

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3.7 out of 53.7 out of 5
3,213 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Jennifer
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A story that gets lost in its own words
Reviewed in the United States on July 7, 2016
I have mixed feelings about this book. I picked it up because of the hype (kudos to Cline''s publishing team) and the first few pages were really impressive. I don''t read a lot of literary stuff like this, and Cline''s words were mesmerizing at first. Every sentence perfectly... See more
I have mixed feelings about this book. I picked it up because of the hype (kudos to Cline''s publishing team) and the first few pages were really impressive. I don''t read a lot of literary stuff like this, and Cline''s words were mesmerizing at first. Every sentence perfectly and poetically constructed. You could take any snippet from this book, post it anywhere, and it would be obvious how strong a writer Cline is, without even knowing what the story was about.

But then it became exhausting. Because while Cline is an incredibly gifted writer, she''s not a great storyteller, and it got really tiring reading paragraph after paragraph of beautiful prose that essentially says nothing. The pacing was soooooo sloooooow. It took pages to describe the smallest details. The story, in a nutshell, is about a girl who becomes part of a cult, and the cult commits heinous murders. The premise is fantastic. But in my opinion, it was told from the wrong point of view. What should have been a fabulous imaginative retelling of Manson fell flat, because the protagonist is only a bystander, and a part-time one at that. She doesn''t live with the cult - she goes home most nights. She has no memorable relationships with anyone else in the group, other than the one girl she''s infatuated with. But because her attraction is one-sided, the relationship never develops. And other than this one girl, the other characters are barely sketched out. They only exist in her peripheral vision, hazy snapshots at best, and this includes the Manson-like character himself. The victims, we don''t really know at all, so it''s difficult to be horrified about what happens to them. Speaking of which, she''s not involved at all in the planning of the murders, and she''s even not there when the murders happen. All that build-up, and we don''t even see the terrible thing that''s the climax of the story.

The book is essentially one giant flashback, with a handful of present-day scenes telling us very little about the protagonist''s life now (but I get why Cline choose to do it this way - if the story is told in flashback, she can tell it with added insight and hindsight, using lots of "little did she know''s" to hint at what''s to come - a cheap way to create tension, but I suppose it''s better than no tension at all). In the end, though, it''s so completely dissatisfying because we don''t know what she''s learned, or how she''s grown. She hints at trying to help a young girl in the present-day, someone who reminds her of herself, but again, it never develops into anything.

This is a story that gets lost in its own words. I''m so disappointed. Great premise, great writing, weak story.
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Books, Vertigo and Tea
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The Girls is undoubtedly a challenging read.
Reviewed in the United States on June 28, 2017
The Girls is undoubtedly a challenging read. Based on the Manson murders, make no mistake, there is a hefty amount of uncomfortable content centering around drug use and sexual encounters (some of which I would clearly label as assault). The fact that the main protagonist... See more
The Girls is undoubtedly a challenging read. Based on the Manson murders, make no mistake, there is a hefty amount of uncomfortable content centering around drug use and sexual encounters (some of which I would clearly label as assault). The fact that the main protagonist Evie is a mere 14 years old, makes it one tough pill to swallow.

Based on several reviews, I was anticipating a dark read full of teenage angst that played on a graphic core in order to up the “wow” factor. I could not have been more wrong. Nor have I ever been happier to be so wrong. The Girls is a shining example of how to utilize first person narration in the most successful ways.

It is the end of the 60’s in Northern California. It is summer, and Evie Boyd feels isolated and out-of-place. Like many teenage girls she just wants to belong. Enter Suzanne. She is care-free and captivating. Immediately drawn to this young stranger, she slowly begins distancing herself from her family and only real friend to spend more time with Suzanne and her friends on the ranch led by the amorous Russell. Evie feels like she has finally found her place in life. But once the initial luster wears off, she realizes she may be involved in something sinister and dangerous.

“My eyes were already habituated to the texture of decay, so I thought that I had passed back into the circle of light.”

Evie Boyd is so bitterly realistic and raw as a protagonist that there is a part of her I found uncomfortably familiar. As a young impressionable girl desperately seeking an acceptance that most of us can remember feeling was out of reach during some point in our young lives, she is undeniably relatable to at least a small degree. It is this painfully honest approach to her character that gives her and The Girls true life and credibility. The part of me that would normally question her frighteningly bad decisions and actions was easily replaced with an equal amount of sadness and understanding. I didn’t like that I was juggling this new-found sympathy for a character who was making harrowing choices, but I couldn’t help but admire the author’s ability to solicit this from me. Full immersion into Evie’s life had occurred.

“You wanted things and you couldn’t help it, because there was only your life, only yourself to wake up with, and how could you ever tell yourself what you wanted was wrong?”

Cline spares zero expense or feelings in effort to establish this dark world that is a cult. She brazenly exposes the reader to the loss of Evie’s innocence, gross sexual encounters and the repetitive drug use that fuels this disturbing journey into one young girl’s psych and time on the ranch. The very facets that make The Girls so disturbing also make it so triumphant. This no holds barred approach succeeds in setting the stage and making the unfathomable feel horribly possible. It is through this bold technique that the reader can begin to process how our young protagonist has come to find herself on the ranch. This is a terrifyingly sincere representation of cult life and culture. It is not meant to be pleasant or easy.

Cline’s writing is almost poetic yet pragmatic. She effortlessly supplies a fluid narration that leaps from Evie’s past to present. I have noted some reader’s struggled with the change in tone at times, but I personally found this to play perfectly into her transitions, conveying our narrator’s current state of mind more effectively. The ending did not offer an overly satisfying conclusion, but I couldn’t really ask that from The Girls.

So here is the hard part, I loved this novel. But I am hesitant to recommend it. This will be too much for many and rightfully so. This is a brutal coming of age story during a very dark time. It has burrowed deep into the core of my mind and is sure to remain for some time. If you find yourself truly fascinated with cult culture and the human psych and can stomach the harsh reality of what it entails, then consider adding this to your list.
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Lindsey
2.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Just incredibly...boring.
Reviewed in the United States on January 6, 2017
Sooooo....let me preface with, I''m a Manson aficionado. No, I''m not a murder-obsessed freak BUT I am really into old Hollywood, Sharon Tate, The Beach Boys, etc. The premise of, "based on.." is a stretch. Emma steals well-known artifacts of information from starlets... See more
Sooooo....let me preface with, I''m a Manson aficionado. No, I''m not a murder-obsessed freak BUT I am really into old Hollywood, Sharon Tate, The Beach Boys, etc. The premise of, "based on.." is a stretch. Emma steals well-known artifacts of information from starlets and the Manson murders and simply inserts them into conversations or thoughts the main protagonist has. And that''s...fine I guess. Probably the most interesting parts of the book to be honest. Because the conversations, the details of the ranch, the backdrop of the deserts, everything is just blah. I was bored. Almost from the very beginning, but I powered through it trying to buy the hype. (Someone else said it in their review; yes, the publishing company did an amazing job of getting the word out, that''s for sure!) Look, I''m stoked that people are even still writing books, let alone reading them AND sometimes buying the actual book. However, this was just boring.
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Sam Weller
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Some Girls in Search of More
Reviewed in the United States on August 18, 2016
Emma Cline can write. She has a decent flair with her prose and a good sense of character development. However, she is not able to incorporate these two elements into a plot structure that is both dynamic and unifying. Some reviewers have pointed out Cline''s... See more
Emma Cline can write. She has a decent flair with her prose and a good sense of character development. However, she is not able to incorporate these two elements into a plot structure that is both dynamic and unifying.

Some reviewers have pointed out Cline''s missteps with plot details centered around the 1969 phases of the story--e.g., stolen credits cards used at a self-service station when no such services existed. However, the larger misstep of Cline''s with her narrative has to do with not addressing the tensions that permeated the late sixties with the deep chasm between post-WWII parents who worked hard to provide their children a safe and plentiful style of life and those children who rebelled against what they perceived to be gross excess, an embarrassment of riches fueling conspicuous consumption. Vietnam was at the center of the chasm between generations, as was race relations, as was just about every value that the parents of these times believed in--dress, music, length of hair, and life goals attained through apprenticeships and education where all things that sparked debate and endless conflict between parents and their children. None of this finds its way into the novel.

Also, as for the Manson connection. Very loose in this narrative. The Manson story was headline material for almost a full year. The horror of their acts resonated with so many who took their sense of security with blithe sureness, turning it into a frenzied response against the counter-culture movements. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated in 1968; those tragedies shocked a nation, leaving many to feel a deep loss that signaled troubled times ahead. The Manson murders, the Zodiac murders, SLA, the Zebra murders, Jonestown, and Harvey Milk and Moscone murders all followed into the mid-70s. Manson murders marked the departure of tragedies that were aimed at our iconic leaders to ones that were aimed at plebeian and lesser stars. To incorporate some of this with the generational divide would have given flesh to this story. To do so would require characters and story-lines that would connect the established narrative, and I am sure that Cline is more than capable of such an undertaking.
17 people found this helpful
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Kiki
1.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
If I could give it a half star, I would.
Reviewed in the United States on September 5, 2016
The book is overloaded with metaphors and similes. With every word on that page read like a French goose trying to soar over a stilled lake but hampered by the luminous tar that''s iced on her wings from an earlier unnatural encounter. I was as determined as a fruit fly... See more
The book is overloaded with metaphors and similes. With every word on that page read like a French goose trying to soar over a stilled lake but hampered by the luminous tar that''s iced on her wings from an earlier unnatural encounter. I was as determined as a fruit fly escaping from a cider trap to finish the book. However, my mind drove through each chapter like a commuter on a busy Broadway hitting every red light only to be distracted by pretty and unassuming window shoppers. I have doubted many decisions in my life, but I can tell you with the precision of a surgeons hand, I will not recommend this book.

I am just saying, that''s how the book reads. Blah!
548 people found this helpful
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E.C.
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
I enjoyed the book
Reviewed in the United States on January 18, 2018
I hadn''t realized until I read the reviews of the book afterwards that this was a fictionalized story of the Manson murders. I''m not sure if knowing that before reading the book would have changed my opinion one way or the other about the book - but honestly, I''m unsure why... See more
I hadn''t realized until I read the reviews of the book afterwards that this was a fictionalized story of the Manson murders. I''m not sure if knowing that before reading the book would have changed my opinion one way or the other about the book - but honestly, I''m unsure why we need to fictionalize the book and change character names when the story of the Manson murders is such a part of the history of cults and cult crimes in the US.

I enjoyed the book, but it isn''t the best book I''ve read of all times.

As a teenager Evie is immersed in a cult. The cult leader, Russell, is followed by many young girls as he seeks to become a musician. The story is told from Evie''s perspective as both the young teenage girl in love with the idea of one of the other girls in the cult and the adult who had to deal with the guilt of becoming involved with a cult that committed a heinous crime.

Because Evie was more on the outskirts of the cult as opposed to being one of the more fervent followers, I actually feel like a lot was missing and that the character allowed Emma Cline to cut corners. With Evie being only on the periphery of the cult, I was unable to truly have any understanding of why these girls remained in the cult, why they chose to follow Russell, and why some of them chose to make decisions that would alter the rest of their lives. I think had the story chosen another character to tell the story from, we could have had a lot fuller of a story.
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Sarah
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Incredible Writing
Reviewed in the United States on July 8, 2016
This book exceeded my expectations. A lot of authors have covered female adolescence, but Emma Cline illuminates the experience in a harrowing and brutally honest light. The way Emma Cline writes about Evie''s obsession with Suzanne is such a true experience, and... See more
This book exceeded my expectations.

A lot of authors have covered female adolescence, but Emma Cline illuminates the experience in a harrowing and brutally honest light. The way Emma Cline writes about Evie''s obsession with Suzanne is such a true experience, and it reminded me of several relationships I personally had in my teens. Evie''s relationship with Suzanne covers a lot of ground; it is a friendship based on envy, admiration, and attraction. Ultimately, this book is about a desire to find a sense of belonging with the people that manage to dazzle you, and perhaps even become like them.

Men run the world that Cline writes about. Indeed, there is a man at the center of their cult. But it is the need to belong with the girls that shapes this gorgeous narrative.
17 people found this helpful
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A Reader
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Remarkably good insights and literary style.
Reviewed in the United States on November 20, 2016
Emma Cline beautifully expresses the mind and emotions of a marginalized teen girl of the 1960s. Those who did not live in that era, might not appreciate the depth of this book, but the vulnerability and abused innocence of the main character whose own low self-image draws... See more
Emma Cline beautifully expresses the mind and emotions of a marginalized teen girl of the 1960s. Those who did not live in that era, might not appreciate the depth of this book, but the vulnerability and abused innocence of the main character whose own low self-image draws her into situations more dangerous than she could possibly understand is expressed with keen accuracy. Being a 1960''s teen girl of divorced parents myself, who dreamed of running away to Haight-Ashbury and living the hippie lifestyle (but never did), I can understand just how easily I could have become an "Evie" and become entrapped in a dark, destructive world when the desire was actually for community, acceptance and love. Remarkable portrayal of the time period, shifting culture, and the working of a lonely teen girl''s mind.
4 people found this helpful
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Top reviews from other countries

Chrissy Frost
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Gripping fictional account of the Manson story
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 4, 2018
Most of us who were adults in 1969 when the Manson killings happened have asked ourselves, "How could this happen? How could girls from middle class families fall under the spell of such a crazed psychopath and commit murder for him? Emma Cline''s fictional rendering of...See more
Most of us who were adults in 1969 when the Manson killings happened have asked ourselves, "How could this happen? How could girls from middle class families fall under the spell of such a crazed psychopath and commit murder for him? Emma Cline''s fictional rendering of this well-known crime is a brilliant attempt to unravel the threads that led to these senseless killings. Cline''s characters are fictional, but are clearly modelled on the girls whose names have become part of criminal legend: Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, Leslie van Houten etc. The book swtiches back and forth between the present, when one of the girls, now middle-aged and working as a freelance house-sitter, reflects back on the events that led her to becoming involved (if somewhat tangentially) with the family of hippies living on a ramshackle farm in California. We see how a rather overlooked young 14-year old with an absent father and a mother newly navigating the dating world post-divorce, falls under the influence of the charismatic Suzanne, someone she meets randomly at a public festival. Little by little, the edgy world of Suzanne''s hippie famlly tempts her away from her rather dull, suburban summer - awaiting private boarding school in the autumn. Cline has captured the cultural flavour of these days perfectly - which is rather amazing given the writer is very young. (I can judge these things: I was there at the time!). Her sensitive exploration of Evie''s journey into dangerous friendships and associations is plausible and gripping. The particular vulnerability of young teenage girls to the attentions of older, manipulative men is captured beautifully. I was confused by the end briefly, but then realized it was echoing the beginning of the book - when a fleeting and random encounter shifts a young woman''s life forever. At the end, we are reminded of how random encounters can change us - or simply pass us by harmlessly. This is a well-written and elegant novel and a remarkable achievement in a first novel.
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gommine
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A compelling yet unsatisfying novel
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 23, 2017
“The Girls” tells the story Evie, of a 14-year old girl who becomes involved with a cult-like commune. Most of the commune members are young women, with the exception of a guy called Gus and Russell Hadrick, an older man who is also the group’s charismatic leader. Evie is...See more
“The Girls” tells the story Evie, of a 14-year old girl who becomes involved with a cult-like commune. Most of the commune members are young women, with the exception of a guy called Gus and Russell Hadrick, an older man who is also the group’s charismatic leader. Evie is not a particularly likeable protagonist - but teenagers rarely are, outside of the idealised world of YA. Come to think of it, there are hardly any likeable characters in this novel; maybe Evie’s mother, and Tom, a minor character appearing briefly towards the end. It’s a testament to an author’s talent that a novel draws you in despite its unpleasant characters and a story that raises more questions than it can answer. What is this commune about, what’s the characters’ background? I would have liked to know more about the reasons why ‘the girls’ stuck around despite the lack of food and basic comforts and with no apparent spiritual gains. By the end of the book, I was still unsure of what made Russell so appealing to these women in the first place. Ultimately, what kept me reading was Cline’s writing, her unusual turns of phrase and imagery; the way her prose is imbued with a growing sense of menace that is hard to shake off even once the last page has been turned. “The Girls” is a novel that makes you want to savour every last word, but that somehow fails to satisfy.
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Bryony Barker
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
3/5. Good but not worth the hype.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 22, 2020
Loosely based around the Manson cult, Emma Cline’s The Girls explores the classic 1960’s allure of a hippie life on the edge of society. Following the life of Evie, we see her as the 14 year old girl longing for a sense of meaning, and we also see her as the older woman...See more
Loosely based around the Manson cult, Emma Cline’s The Girls explores the classic 1960’s allure of a hippie life on the edge of society. Following the life of Evie, we see her as the 14 year old girl longing for a sense of meaning, and we also see her as the older woman living with the reality of her past. How the narrative flipped from past to present was an interesting device but neither was explored in enough detailed. From the writing I could feel the sunburnt American days, and everything I pictured had an orange yellow film to it, but though it was descriptive and addictive, it only dangled the carrot of a captivating cult story and lacked any real gumption. Tip toeing in and out of the ranch, as Evie is never fully, truly immersed in the group, the narrative felt tepid and neither here nor there speaking only as an outsider. - I did enjoy the self reflective descriptions and Evie’s teenage angst, and there were some really wonderful sentences. But overall, it promised more than it delivered.
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trufflepig
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Emma Cline’s debut is fantastic, her writing so lyrically evocative
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 21, 2017
Emma Cline’s debut is fantastic, her writing so lyrically evocative. She tells the story of Evie Boyd who during the summer of 1969 falls in with a group of girls who belong to what Evie understands to be a commune but is actually a cult. This summer will shape the rest of...See more
Emma Cline’s debut is fantastic, her writing so lyrically evocative. She tells the story of Evie Boyd who during the summer of 1969 falls in with a group of girls who belong to what Evie understands to be a commune but is actually a cult. This summer will shape the rest of Evie’s life. The narrative is told in two parts, Evie at 14 and middle age Evie. Every woman will be able to identify with 14 year old Evie to a certain extent. 14 is such a pivotal age for a girl, you are becoming aware of your body, your femininity and how others see you. At 14 you want to be liked by those you identify with and being liked is so desperately important. I remember this time in my own life well and remember feeling this way, I can’t remember why it all mattered so much, but it did deeply. 14 is a time when some of us will follow the crowd and perhaps do things that we are uncomfortable with, that little voice in our head telling us to stop. This is the case for Evie as she tells us her story. It is widely known that this book is based on the Manson family so inevitably it ends in tragedy and Evie spends the rest of her life trying to make sense of this. I’ve read other reviews where readers query why the girls did the things they did and why they stayed at the ranch, talking about how unlikeable they were and I agree - I would say though that it is quite strongly inferred that these girls came from situations of abuse and they were essentially groomed by the charismatic Russell and believed he genuinely loved them. They were broken, by life, society and parents who didn’t care - even Evie, who came from a good home was in a position where her parents were emotionally distant - easy prey for those who are skilled in manipulation. Overall I enjoyed this book, Emma Cline is truly talented, however I was left slightly wanting more, the ending lacked something for me, although I’m not sure what that is. I look forward to reading more from Emma
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S. Hunt
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A book that oozes with gorgeous prose
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 29, 2017
This book offers a heady mix of drugs and love. Evie is a mixed up sometimes angry girl desperate to escape her mundane life. A chance meeting allows her to do just that but at a high cost. Evie gets in with a crowd of people who are hard and evil. Blinkered though she only...See more
This book offers a heady mix of drugs and love. Evie is a mixed up sometimes angry girl desperate to escape her mundane life. A chance meeting allows her to do just that but at a high cost. Evie gets in with a crowd of people who are hard and evil. Blinkered though she only sees the good in them. This book is about friendships and how they take shape. It''s about how one decision can change your life forever. We all want to be liked and find our place in this world. Emma Cline writes exquisitely. This book plays on all of your senses. This book is poetic in its prose. Not for the faint hearted this book doesn''t leave much to the imagination. Emma has created a multi-faceted book that is just gorgeous to read. It''s unsettling and makes you think. I personally loved this book because of the way it was structured and for the little details within the story. It had characters that are unusual and dark. In places this reads a book for young adults but due to its content it''s definitely an adult read. Refreshing in so many ways.
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