I have been so negligent about writing book reviews lately but this one needs to be done immediately. I finished reading Emma Cline’s The Girls today after being riveted by the novel for a few days. I had read a NY Times review of the book earlier this summer, and patiently waited for the ebook to be available from the library. I am not curiously drawn to anything having to do with cults or Charles Manson, but the early press about the manuscript leading to a bidding war among a dozen publishers and the seven figure, three book deal made me awfully interested.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the story is tightly focused on the girls – of course. The central character, Evie, is fourteen in the summer of 1969. Her divorced parents seem preoccupied, her best friend seems distant, her town seems disenchanted – she is ripe for the allure of Suzanne, an older girl she sees one day with a few other girls harvesting food from a dumpster. When Suzanne eyes Evie with a lingering glance, Evie is struck. What follows are multiple trips and extended stays at the Mansonesque commune where a haunting musician named Russell commands. Of course there is plenty of sex and drugs and music, but the focus is on the relationship between Evie and Suzanne. Of course there is a climactic event of violence and a lifetime of lingering guilt by association for Evie, who is an older adult in the opening chapter and subsequent sections.
Cline knows girls and can expose the fragility of innocence with beautifully crafted prose. This is a book that people will be talking about and girls will be reading.