Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Book Review: The Girls by Emma Cline

Book: The Girls

Author: Emma Cline

Pages: 357

Read: The paperback pictured above; you can read the first few pages of the book by clicking on 'Preview' below

Read in: 3-4 hours

Plot Summary: Evie Boyd is desperate to be noticed. In the summer of 1969, empty days stretch out under the California sun. The smell of honeysuckle thickens the air and the sidewalks radiate heat.

Until she sees them. The snatch of cold laughter. Hair, long and uncombed. Dirty dresses skimming the tops of thighs. Cheap rings like a second set of knuckles. The girls.

And at the centre, Russell. Russell and the ranch, down a long dirt track and deep in the hills. Incense and clumsily strummed chords. Rumours of sex, frenzied gatherings, teen runaways.

Was there a warning, a sign of things to come? Or is Evie already too enthralled by the girls to see that her life is about to be changed forever?

Review and Thoughts: 

1. Unless one lives under a rock, this book has been endlessly hyped as THE BOOK OF 2016! This is supposed to be this year's Girl on the Train or *insert a recent thriller bestseller here*. So, we picked this book up with a bit of mixed feelings- excitement as well as some healthy dose of skepticism. Would this really live up to the hype?! This is not the first book to be written on (or inspired by) the Charles Manson murders, so what would be so unique about it.. Anyway, eventually, I put aside any misgivings or preconceived notions about this book and dove right in... Spoiler alert- this book totally lives up to the hype! 

2.  The writing was really good, especially for a debut novel. The author does a fantastic job of making the era come to life within these pages. 1969 comes alive in all of it's glory and grit. I also enjoyed the pace of story telling, it was fast paced and kept you on the edge of your seat in places and it was perfectly languid in others. Really well done! 

3. Evie! Oh Evie! I have to be honest and say when we meet her as a 14 year old in the summer of 1969, I didn't like her at all. I wanted to get inside the pages of the book and really, really shake her. She was insecure, attention-seeking, under-confident and just a big mess. I almost wanted to put the book aside to get away from an annoying character like her. Then I had to take a deep breath and honestly I told myself to relax. And I had to remind myself that a girl would have to be all of these non-likable things to fall into a cult. You can't be a self assured and confident teen and then be taken in by the words and charm of a cult leader. So Evie had to be exactly like she was to have been taken in by the cult and it's people. 
Long story short, I think the author did a bang up job on writing Evie's character. I think she did a great job in showing Evie as a lonely, sad, lost, approval-seeking and easily influenced you adult. Evie felt real and human and like someone we might know. 

4. Another thing I really appreciated about the book was that the cult and the cult life was not at all glamourised. It was shown without any rose tinted glasses of any sort. Sometimes books and movies show the 60s and 70s era 'cults' with a heavy dose of cool hippiness. Or the girls in these cults as being beautiful and ethereal and mysterious. But this book from the word go, since the first moment we see the cult and their home shows it in all of it's squalidness. It is dirty, unruly and full of lice infested children and kitchens and meals full rotten food. This was a messed up and messy situation. I really like that it was shown in it's real state. 

5. I obviously liked reading about the cult that is heavily inspired and based on the Manson Family. I am a nut for true crime and cults just get me so excited. That sounds weird..but I love cults. LOVE it! They are so fascinating in their macabre dealings. The minute I heard this book was loosely based on the Manson Family it went on my immediate TBR. And I really, really enjoyed the cult bits in the book. 

6. Even thought reading about the cult life was the highlight of the book for me..I also enjoyed reading about Evie's life before she gets caught up in this world. I liked reading about her lost and newly divorced mother, I liked reading about her home and even family before her parents split up. Her friendship and her longings for some attention were all pretty interesting to read about. 

7. The Girls- the girls of the cult. The long haired, confident, free and charismatic girls that really are in some way the cornerstone of this book. I love that we see them through the awestruck Evie's eyes. I see them as a 14 year old girl would see slightly older girls..see them as everything that she is not. And aspire to be like them. Aspire to imbibe some of their golden qualities. I think they were shown (especially from Evie's perspective) very well. And I also liked getting the small snippets of their back story..though I wish there was more of their stories. 

8. The book goes back and forth (though not a lot) between 1969 and Evie in present day as a middle aged woman living a pretty solitary life. I obviously preferred reading about teen Evie but I didn't mind reading about her life in the present as well. It was nice to see the aftermath of such dramatic events (the murders) has on a person and what their life turns into. 

9. There were parts in this book that got my heart racing. I was actually nervous about what was about to happen..always a good thing in a thriller. 

10. I honestly couldn't put this book down. I read it pretty much in one sitting. An immersive and atmospheric read. 

Rating: 4/5 

I really enjoyed this book and I absolutely recommend it. 
I think it's best to go into this book without all the hype. Read it on it's own merit. Give it a fair chance and don't expect a traditional thriller. Read it as a story of a cult, a summer in 1969 and horrible things human beings are capable of doing. 

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