Title: The Girls By: Emma Cline Year Published: 2016
In a sentence (no spoilers, please): Bored (and boring) teenage girl becomes an unconvincing member of a 60s ranch cult (like Manson’s) so she can be one of The Girls
Why did you pick it up? I saw this book getting rave reviews everywhere and finally gave in after a year when I saw it on a Waterstones BOGOF table. Also loved the cover
When did you read it? A few months ago, I think I put it down for a few weeks as well. Like No Logo, this took me ages to read but for completely different reasons.
This is probably a 50 billion word story which was supposed to serve as an anecdote for how difficult it is for young women to form their own characters independently, uninfluenced by guys or what everyone else thinks they should be. It’s sort of a coming of age for Evie Boyd, the ‘please like me’ protagonist who appears to crave approval from men, ‘cooler’ girls and generally any speaking, living being (except her mum, of course). It’s a common adolescent phase but most people I know didn’t join a cult to cope. On it’s path, The Girls tackles affected female friendships and misguided relationships. There isn’t enough fact for it to be considered historical fiction based on the events leading to the Manson Murders but it’s heart is in the right place.
It took me forever to finish this book and I’m trying to figure out why. Why did it take months to finish this book?
Is it because it’s unrelateable? I’ve never been in a cult before.
Is it because it is boring? The tone is rarely raised or dropped through 355 pages
Is it because the protagonist isn’t compelling? Her lack of charisma is just sliding across the pages. Beige AF. Was that deliberate? To make her seem everyman?
Is it because it feels like it is a story that could have been told in 20 pages but instead was told in hundreds?
Is it because I don’t know enough about the inner workings of the ’69 Manson murders to appreciate it?
Is it because the climax wasn’t climax-y enough? Like a casual, moderate climax. Just when you think something should happen with a bang and a side of drama…..nothing happens- with some tumbleweed and a side of nothing.
Not to dismiss it- there are a few gems in the writing, I thought this was brilliant:
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.
If I ever mentor anyone again, I’m going to try and casually drop this sentence into conversation.
Still, the story did seem motiveless sometimes. The problem may have been that Cline wrote from Evie’s view- the person with the least insightful perspective of the ranch. Perhaps The Girls could have been saved by putting more emphasis on Suzanne but maybe not- the characters are about as developed as teenaged biceps. It’s hard to care.
Rating: 5.5/10- I have a problem where I have to finish a book once I start it, otherwise I would have put this down. Need to work on that. Its not terrible, just not a favourite.
Should I read it? If you can get past the first 20 pages or so, you might enjoy it but I definitely wouldn’t read it again
Maybe you’ll also like: Can’t help you here…but Amazon strangely suggests Zadie Smith’s Swing Time
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