If you’ve managed to make it this far without even hearing about The Girls, you must have been living underneath a rock (or, y’know, you just don’t obsessively follow book release news, you big weirdo)—because this book has had some serious *hype*.
The Girls is inspired by the Manson family murders, so you know it’s not going to end well. The book follows 14-year-old Evie over the course of a summer, in which she falls in with a cult of beautiful and free-spirited girls, all led by the enigmatic Russell.
The setting alternates between this 1960s California summer, and the present day, in which Evie is a lonely adult, sharing a house for the night with the teenage son of an old friend, and his shy, mistreated girlfriend. Right from the start, it is revealed that the summer would end in a horrific murder; this is not a plot-driven novel trying to startle you with its twists and turns. Instead, The Girls is the exploration of yearning, pride, love and desperation—and how a human can be driven to commit such terrible crimes.
The Girls is beautifully eery; Emma Cline’s dreamy prose paints a shimmery reflection of our world that forces you to see everything a little bit differently. Evie, who didn’t actually take part in the murders herself, reveals towards the end of the novel that she can’t be sure she wouldn’t have. This question has been floating around all along—and Cline does a wonderful job of posing it towards the reader as well.
As well as being about morality, The Girls is also about, um, girls. It’s about the roles girls play in relation to men, and the roles into which they put each other.
I felt at times that The Girls is a little over-written; Cline’s insistence on packing ~creative writing~ into every sentence becomes a little tedious, no matter how gorgeous that writing may be. I’m naturally a very speedy reader, but it took me a whole week to stumble through every metaphor-filled line in this novel (particularly in the novel’s slower first half; once the plot started to pick up, so did my reading speeds). To be fair, the writing did a great job of making the cult seem other-worldly and sinister, but that didn’t make the slower parts any easier to read.
I fell in love with this book about half way through, and from that point onwards it was brilliant. I would absolutely recommend you pack this one in your holiday suitcase this summer, and it’s definitely a novel that I’ve been mentally revisiting a lot in the days since I finished it. I’ll absolutely be buying Emma Cline’s next novel (she signed a three-book deal with Random House for a rumoured $2 million)—but I’ll be crossing my fingers for a slightly subtler writing style if I’m truly going to get swept away.
The Girls is out 2nd June in the US and 16th June in the UK
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.