Having heard a lot about The Girls, I thought I would really love it, and not just because everybody else seems to love it. I’m English, I was born in the 80s and I’m therefore not particularly familiar with the events surrounding Charles Manson in the 60s. But it sounded fascinating – lots of potential for psychological drama, murder and cult mentality.
Cline is a really lovely writer – she writes beautiful prose, and she delves effectively into the teenage girl psyche. Sometimes I felt the style was a bit over the top, but every so often I’d get to a sentence that blew me away. The main character is well-developed, probably at the expense of the others, but I suspect this may have been intentional (I can’t get over my hang-up on this – in any book I want a set of well-developed characters, not just one!).
My main issue with the book is there wasn’t enough drama in it – it focuses mostly on Evie and her relationship with one of the girls, Suzanne, and there wasn’t much focus on cult mentality overall. For me, this took away from the book as I wanted an insight into how people get sucked into such a situation. To me, Evie always seems slightly removed – able to see how the other girls have reached this point, but not really as one of them, and she’s not there for Russell, the cult leader, but more because of her friendship with Suzanne. She’s never completely within their sphere, she’s tethered to the “real world” by her dysfunctional family.
I liked the ending, even if it was fairly predictable due to the nature of the story and it didn’t really blow me away. The author really knows how to evoke atmosphere though – I felt transported to 1960s California even though that wasn’t the focus of the book, and I think that’s the sign of a good writer.
I don’t think I’d read anything else by Emma Cline, but I wouldn’t dismiss the idea if she wrote about something that really grabbed me in the future. She has a beautiful style of writing which in many cases, for me, made up for a lack of plot.
My rating: 3 stars