Monday, 21 March 2016

Review: The Girls by Emma Cline


Date Finished: 19/3/2016
2016  368 pages  Rating ««««

My proof copy of The Girls was sent to me by The Bookbag and my review originally appeared on their website.

California. Summer 1969. Fourteen year old Evie Boyd is a thoughtful yet bored teenager from a broken home. The attention she craves is nowhere to be found in the form of her neglectful, serial dating mother, or even in the friendship of her fickle best friend Connie. Abandoned by those around her, Evie’s path collides with Suzanne – a mysterious older girl who introduces Evie to a strange yet thrilling new life, offering her the intimate relationship her life back home lacks.

The Girls is a thrilling and beautifully written début novel with the film rights already in the works. The prose is simply engrossing and it is written in an eloquent style that was nothing short of splendid to read. It’s the kind of writing that makes you stop reading so you can mark the pages, as though you’re reminding yourself that yes, this how you write.

Despite having left my teen years behind, I can strongly remember what it felt like to be Evie’s age – to be fourteen and tortured by your own inner turmoil, the making and breaking of friendships, trying to discover your identity and who you want to be. Emma Cline’s craftsmanship perfectly captures the teenage mind as Evie learns to make sense of the world around her, and this strange new life she suddenly finds herself in.

While Evie is an interesting and relatable protagonist, the subject matter of the story is dark and perhaps appears scarier since it is told through the eyes of a young girl, whose naïve teenage mind still blinds her to the dangers in society. The story is loosely based on the Manson Murders which took place in California around this time and since it is told in a non-linear narrative, you are fed subtle hints of what will happen and how events unfold.The narrative is dreamlike; everything appears hazy which did make the story feel fragmented in parts, but I believe that’s how it’s meant to be read. The Girls isn’t the kind of novel where you try to work out how it will end; you already have a clear understanding of where things are going and the thrill comes from simply how it is written, thanks to Cline’s delicate use of language.

Despite being able to appreciate this novel as a stunningly written piece of work, I didn’t completely love it. I can’t quite pin down why, but the subject matter of the story is not a light one and the explicit scenes concerning sex and drugs did occasionally feel a little heavy. The writing was a pleasure to read even if the context was dark which made the reading experience interesting to say the least. At times it seemed as though not very much was going - you follow Evie as her friendship with Suzanne develops and the events in her new life begin to unfold. It’s slow but well-paced, and clever in its build-up of tension. Without revealing too much, the story brilliantly captures the power of human relationships, which is stunningly executed and while at times shocking, I’m glad I had the opportunity to read it.
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