The Girls - Emma Cline

Hailed by Lena Denham, Vogue and pretty much every chic publication under the sun, 'The Girls' was THE novel of Summer 2016. Does it live up to its California-dreaming hype?

Let's have the blurb, shall we?
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 notices them. The snatch of cold laugher. 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?

The Blonde Bookworm review:

(Let me just make sure you've stopped singing 'Summer of 69' in your head. OK? Good.)

Emma Cline's depiction of a dusty, California in the 1970's, with bored teenager Evie at the helm, makes you also yearn for something new. The writing is desperate in the beginning of the novel, with Evie's teenage mind clearly seeking something more than the dull life she lives with her divorced mother. She's waiting, waiting for something, to be prettier, funnier... for puberty to kick in and give her the promised life she's heard about in the Stevie Nicks lyrics.

Then, the girls.

The moment 'the girls' come into the narrative, the writing changes. Everything becomes Technicolor, the mood is sultry, sexy, and you can't help but understand Evie's magnetic attraction for the girls that aren't who she thought she'd aspire to be, but their aloof nature gives them an air of delicious perfection. Evie is then indoctrinated into their world, into the arms of their vindictive and predatory leader Russell (a Charles Manson, cult figure, self obsessed and utterly deluded by his own 'talents), lured into a world of sex, drugs, rock and roll... and a dangerous air of chaos in the air.

It's easy to feel completely enamoured by the sheer appeal of the girls. Didn't we all long for more as teenagers? For the knowledge that we were in the right crowd, wearing the right things, attracting the right people? The complete unknown is so appealing to Evie, and her vulnerable teenage state lets her believe that this identity is hers, rather than shaped by the people she is choosing to surround herself with.

The theme of identity, loneliness, and a burning desire to grow up are prevalent throughout The Girls, matched with the beautiful and sensual writing of Cline. You can feel every breath of Evie as she paces the ranch, her heartbeat as she encounters her first sexual encounters, and the darkness that washes over her once summer is over.

Whilst the cult is certainly sadistic and horrifying, I felt (in my own sadistic and horrifying mind) that it could have gone further. It could have been pushed to its limits, truly showcasing the bare bones of Russell and his warped soul.

But aside from this, Cline portrays this distant memory in Evie's mind perfectly, under a layer of Californian dust that clearly settles on her mind for the rest of her life. Delicious.

Read if you...
loved the film 'Thirteen', listen to a lot of Fleetwood Mac, and have a secret interest in cults. Oh, and if you want to have serious fashion inspo from the boho looks of the girls (not a likely fashion icon, but I wish I could rock floaty, dress chic like them).


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