Review & Image by Jess Kneebone
"I waited to be told what was good about me. I wondered later if this was why there were so many more women than men at the ranch. 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." The Girls, Emma Cline[/type]
The gruesome killings; an unhinged and enigmatic leader; innocence lost -- after nearly half a century, the details of the Manson Family murders still captivate and horrify. Whilst inspired by these infamous events, Emma Cline's debut novel is more of a remarkable and at times poetic coming-of-age story. It's summer, 1969. Evie Boyd, a 14 year old from a wealthy middle class family, feels 'the days crumble away like debris from a cliff face.' Waiting to attend boarding school, disconnected from her divorced parents and hanging around with her one-dimensional friend in the Californian 'burbs, Evie craves distraction and a sense of belonging. And then she meets The Girls. Lead by the alluring Suzanne, The Girls effortlessly captivate Evie and shepherd her through a haze of discovery and recklessness on the ranch, and to Russell.
Cline's rendering of the inner workings of an adolescent girl is vivid, honest and captivating. Evie is wrought with complexity and never less than utterly real, often uncomfortably so. And with accomplished subtly, Cline offers insightful commentary into a patriarchal objectification of girls. Peppered with bites of the Manson Family history, heartbreakingly good prose and observations that startle with their clarity and freshness, The Girls is the type of book that deserves a cultish following. Put it at the top of your reading pile.