To kick off the first in my series about things I’ve been doing to replace habitual eating, I thought I’d share my views on last month’s book club* choice – The Girls by Emma Cline.
It’s San Francisco, 1969 and for 14 year old Evie, a long, lonely summer stretches ahead of her before she’s shipped off to boarding school. But then she meets the intoxicating Suzanne and is soon caught up in her heady world of free love, drugs and communal living. But what at first appears to be a whimsical life of freedom soon reveals itself to be one of control and darkness.
Beware of spoilers from this point on
Based on the infamous Manson murders, I was looking forward to reading this book to find out more about this notorious event. Being interested in the psychology of behaviour and what makes people behave in the way they do, I was hoping to find out more about the people recruited into Manson’s cult and what brought them to him and made them do the horrific things they did.
What I got was a slightly waffly tale of a 14 year old’s perspective on her involvement with the cult.
I felt that Cline did well in conveying what it’s like to be a 14 year old girl – ego-centric; easy to become infatuated; always seeking the approval of her idols and dismissive of her parents; – and what can happen when such an impressionable young person feels ignored by their parents and is left to their own devices to try to find somewhere to belong.
There were a lot of grammatical inaccuracies and strange, ambiguous sentence structures. We discussed in book club that these might have been meant to reflect the adolescence of the narrator (the story is told in the 1st person) but she is actually telling the story as an adult thinking back on what had happened and I found them to be annoying.
I also felt that Evie over emphasised her involvement with the cult and she even seemed to be disappointed that she’d missed out on the infamy that the rest of the group achieved. I suppose this attests favourably to Cline’s ability to develop a character as I often found myself annoyed by her attitude.
The biggest let down for me was that the book was only concerened with Evie’s experiences on the periphery of the group. I would have liked to have learned more about how Russell (the ‘Manson’ character) recruited people to his cult and convinced them to do his bidding, and what it was about the other group members that made them vulnerable to being persuaded to follow him.
Although the subject matter, which included sexual abuse and grooming, was quite difficult, this was in fact an easy read and overall, I’d score it 6/10. I wouldn’t be in a hurry to read something else by Cline, but I wouldn’t discount it out of hand. I definitely want to find out more about the Manson murders though.
Thanks for reading,
Have you read this book or anything else by the author? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section.