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review 2017-05-10 04:16
The Girls - Emma Cline

Fourteen year old Evie has got a long summer ahead of her before she is shipped off to boarding school. She falls out with her best friend, her mum spends her time with her new boyfriend and her dad lives elsewhere with his new wife. Evie finds herself alone and desperate for attention. Then one day in a park, she notices a couple of strange girls and follows them to a dumpster where they collect dinner. She meets them again when her bike slips its chain and they offer her a lift to their ranch. There she finds the attention she has been craving. Everyone is chilled out and interested in her. And everyone is in awe of Russell. He is the manipulative head of the cult and he welcomes Evie with open arms. She spends the summer at the ranch, doing drugs and learning about sex, only returning home to keep up appearances (and steal money from her mum). But when Russell doesn't get the record deal he thinks he is due, things go very bad and Evie has a narrow escape.

 

This is not the kind of book I would normally read. It is a kind of coming of age story which is not my preferred genre. Evie is a lonely, bored and vulnerable teenage girl with low self-esteem, just crying out to be noticed - one of thousands in every generation. It is easy to see how some can be in thrall to sick men like Russell. Her gradual integration into the ranch community was chilling. I liked the end, proving that you can find friends and a sense of belonging in less dangerous surroundings.The writing was great, descriptive enough to let you see the details but it didn't get bogged down.

 

I loved this book. It is a must read for every parent with a teenage daughter. Or maybe not, I don't think I could have stomached it when my daughter was that age.

 

 

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text 2017-05-07 19:41
Reading progress update: I've read 254 out of 364 pages.
The Girls - Emma Cline

Much to my surprise, I am really enjoying this (if enjoying is the right word). It's kind of creepy and sad. Evie, a fourteen year old rich kid whose parents are divorced gets caught up in a commune. It is frightening because you can imagine how easily it can happen.

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review 2017-04-06 22:08
The Girls by Emma Cline
The Girls: A Novel - Emma Cline

“Poor girls. The world fattens them on the promise of love. How badly they need it, and how little most of them will ever get.”

Summary:

Evie Boyd is now in her fifties as she reflects back on her time as a 14 year old living in late ‘60s Northern California.  As with most 14 year old girls, Evie is young, impressionable and longing to find her place in the world.  She comes across a group of young women in the park and their carefree ways captivate her.  Soon she manages to befriend one of these young women, Suzanne.  Suzanne takes her under her wing.  Evie is swept into Suzanne’s world when they visit the ranch where the girls are living.  She is introduced to their leader, Russell Hadrick.  Russell is an enigmatic man who has this fantastic following and seems to be on the edge of fame.  He and his “family” seem to have the world in the palm of their hands and Evie can’t resist the pull.

 

The Premise:

This book has gotten rave reviews.  Perhaps I am alone in not finding it all that captivating.  None of the characters in this book were likeable including the main character, Evie.  It’s so obvious that this is a fictional representation of a young girl being taken into a Charles Manson-like cult.  Knowing the outcome of that horrendous true-crime story makes it hard for me to understand how anyone could be lured to it.  I read Helter Skelter when I was very young and I was appalled by it.  I didn’t get how those young women could be drawn to such a monster and I still don’t get it even after reading this book.  Someone of a younger generation who cannot recall those events so easily might find this book much more riveting than I did.  Like Gone Girl, this book just made me want to take a shower. 

 

The Writing:

 

Each generation has their version of living on the edge and doing things that seem taboo.  The 60s were a great turning point in the freedoms that society experiences to this day.  It was a turbulent time of change for young people.  Emma Cline takes us into the head of one young girl during that time.  Evie became easily misdirected and her poor decisions will forever haunt her.  To me, there is one very important point here.  When we are young our expectations of the world are high.  Society leads us to believe that things should be a certain way.  We begin to realize during adolescence that maybe for some of us those things aren’t that easy to come by.  Is the world going to be disappointed by us?  Are we going to be disappointed by it?  The heart can be a lonely confusing place and we all long to belong somewhere.  As we grow away from some we’ve been close to and towards new people, we each have an inner journey going on that no one else is privy to.  Cline did indeed give us a vivid picture of the strife that can come with this journey. 

 

I want to thank the publisher (Random House Publishing Group – Random House) for providing me with the ARC through NetGalley for an honest review.

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review 2016-12-29 13:48
The Girls; superb teen angst with a splash of murder
The Girls: A Novel - Emma Cline

I first came across author Emma Cline in the Paris Review of Books in summer 2013 when I found her story Marion. The opening had me hooked;

 

"Cars the color of melons and tangerines sizzled in cul-de-sac driveways. Dogs lay belly-up and heaving in the shade. It was cooler in the hills, where Marion’s family lived. Everyone who stayed at their ranch was some relative, Marion said, blood or otherwise, and she called everyone brother or sister."

 

I presume this is the short story that got her the writing contract for The Girls, because it's based on the same premise - at the end of the 60s, teenager Evie Boyd becomes drawn into a gang of girls and towards their cult leader in LA. It obviously has the backdrop of the Manson murders in mind, highly fashionable at the moment (anyone seen The Invitation? It was a quiet, unsettling movie from 2015 that also has sinister LA cult behaviour as a backdrop).

 

The Girls is really wonderfully written. It didn't feel like it had quite the same artistic punch as the short story, but it was pretty spectacularly done all the same. Highly recommended, if you want to be taken back to how agonisingly awful if was to be a teenager (Cline really nails it) amidst some very chilling characters indeed.

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review 2016-12-18 00:00
The Girls: A Novel
The Girls: A Novel - Emma Cline Please note that I gave this book 2.5 stars and rounded it up to 3 stars on Goodreads.

This year I seem to be doing badly with new releases that get a lot of critical acclaim. I found myself bored and restless while reading Emma Cline's "The Girls." This was Cline's take on the Manson murders with details and names changed and re-imagined. I always thought of Charles Manson as a deeply charismatic man who managed to attract a lot of people who were looking for "truth". However, "The Girls" follows one young girl named Evie Boyd who is more focused on one of the other girls in this book, Suzanne. In the end I didn't know what lesson I was supposed to be taking away from this story. That men are terrible? That girls are only there to do what they can to attract men? I honestly don't know. I was sitting around deeply confused while reading.

I thought there were a lot of great lines in this book that definitely gave me a sense of what Cline was trying to say. However, a couple of great lines does not make a great book. I think in the end that the character of Evie was lost and just not that interesting.

The book starts off in the present with Evie living/taking care of a friend's home. I had so many questions about this because the more you read the book, Evie has almost zero friends. So it's weird this one random man and her are in touch and he thinks well enough of her to let her stay at his home. When her friend's son and his girlfriend suddenly arrive, Evie starts reminiscing on her past.

I wish that I had liked Evie. I think at times it was just too hard because she was such a contradiction throughout the book. Past and present Evie really have not learned anything it seems and by the end of the book I just pitied her. She's going to pass away one day and you have the sense that no one is going to mourn her. Though Evie will probably still be thinking of Suzanne.

Other characters in this book are somewhat developed or not developed at all. For example, Evie's mother I thought I got a pretty good handle on. I actually felt sorry for a woman who does not quite know what to do in this phase of her life after her husband has left her for another man. Even though she knows it's wrong, she takes up a relationship with a man who is married and seems determined to find some sort of happiness in her life. In a way Evie is a past version of her mother and I felt like Evie without realizing it was looking at a possible future of her older self. And perhaps Evie's would have went that way if she had not been so broken after the events that she dealt with in the 1960s.

Though I found Evie's mother interesting, I wish that more development had been incorporated into characters like Suzanne, Russell, and Evie's father. Evie's obsession with Suzanne and her need for her to show how much she loved her was surprising since it is pretty apparent that Suzanne does not care for her. Evie later on in her life trying to pin positive motives to Suzanne just rang false.

The book switches between past and present and honestly it wrecked the flow of the book. Evie soon becomes fixated on the girlfriend of the son of the owner. I just found the whole thing sad. She's still looking for someone to come along and claim her in a way. I don't know. The scenes between this threesome and later when a fourth party emerged turned me off. When the book tries to go into depth about a horrible incident that Evie and others hint at I felt a bit let down.

The book ends with a whimper and you don't get a great feeling of satisfaction about the other characters you have been introduced to in the book.
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