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The Girls by Emma Cline
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The Girls (2016)

by Emma Cline

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English (101)  Dutch (3)  Spanish (3)  German (1)  Catalan (1)  All (109)
Showing 1-5 of 101 (next | show all)
Middle-aged Evie Boyd looks back to the summer of 1969 when as a 14-year-old teenager she became involved in a Manson-like cult. Drawn to a free-spirited rebellious woman named Suzanne, Evie is introduced to the commune of which Suzanne is a member. Evie gradually becomes involved in the cult’s lifestyle of free love, drugs, and crime.

The characterization of the teenaged Evie is a strong element in the book. Evie’s parents are virtually absent from her life; nothing seems to be happening in her life; she feels alienated from her peers; and her crushes on boys are unreciprocated. As a result, she is bored and drifting through life and is desperate for attention and love. The older Suzanne sees her neediness and gives her the attention she desires. Evie thrives on being noticed and focuses on trying to please Suzanne and the cult leader, Russell Hadrick, so their love and attention will not be withdrawn. Of course, Evie is being manipulated: she is forced into sexual service and encouraged to steal to supply food and money for the group.

It becomes clear how certain people can be drawn into belonging to a cult. Both Russell and Suzanne are adept at recognizing young women who lack confidence and self-esteem. These insecure, lonely women are easily malleable. Some attention makes them feel, like Evie, that they are “the center of a singular drama.” As an adult, Evie can recognize the tactics Russell used on her during her first evening at the commune: “Russell had put me through a series of ritual tests. . . . Attracting the thin, harried girls with partial college degrees and neglectful parents, girls with hellish bosses and dreams of nose jobs. His bread and butter. . . . Already he’d become an expert in female sadness – a particular slump in the shoulders, a nervous rash. A subservient lilt at the end of sentences, eyelashes gone soggy from crying. Russell did the same thing to me that he did to those girls. Little tests, first. A touch on my back, a pulse of my hand. Little ways of breaking down boundaries” (125).

The novel examines the world of young women and does not present a pleasant picture. Young girls are objectified and their self-esteem is directly connected to how they meet society’s ideals of feminine beauty and deportment. Young girls are often targets of sexual exploitation; Evie lists several instances of how men saw her need and used it against her: “a stranger at a fair who palmed my crotch through my shorts. A man on the sidewalk who lunged at me, then laughed when I flinched. The night an older man took me to a fancy restaurant . . . [and] later placed my hand on his dick while he drove me home. None of this was rare. Things like this happened hundreds of times. Maybe more” (349 – 350). I’d bet there are few women who can’t list such encounters from their personal experience.

The message is that times have changed but what is expected of women has not. Women are expected to accept the dehumanizing demands of men. Evie sees her behaviour paralleled in the behaviour of a young woman named Sasha whose boyfriend Julian coerces her into exposing her breasts to a friend of his. Then Sasha “barely said goodbye. Burrowing into Julian’s side, her face set like a preventative against my pity. She had already absented herself, I knew, gone to that other place in her mind where Julian was sweet and kind and life was fun, or if it wasn’t fun, it was interesting, and wasn’t that valuable, didn’t that mean something” (338)? This is so similar to Evie’s 14-year-old self “trying so hard to slur the rough, disappointing edges of boys into the shape of someone we could love” (47).

If you’ve ever wondered how women could have been attracted to Charles Manson and why they would have killed for him, you might want to read this book. You may find yourself wanting to shake Evie out of her naivety but you may also come to an understanding of the appeal of cults for certain people whose vulnerability makes them targets for the unscrupulous.

Please check out my reader's blog (http://schatjesshelves.blogspot.ca/) and follow me on Twitter (@DCYakabuski). ( )
  Schatje | Mar 24, 2017 |
Although loosely based on the Manson cult, this story mainly focuses on a young, disenchanted and very naive young girl, Evie, who is in and out of the cult as the mood suits her. As such, I found it more interesting than if it had been a complete rendering of the whole sordid Manson tale. It's an OK book. ( )
  flourgirl49 | Mar 23, 2017 |
Initially, Cline's writing mesmerized me. Her word choices felt exceptional, inspired, fresh. But about a third of the way in, the writing got in the way of the story. You've probably heard the saying—if it sounds like writing, rewrite it. This book is an example of too much writing and not enough story. About half way in, I was completely exhausted from wading through the fluff of adjectives and similes. The Manson story has been told and retold and while it continues to fascinate, this one offers nothing new other than a bunch of words. Cline has undeniable talent but this book doesn't fit the hype. ( )
  TBoerner | Mar 22, 2017 |
I did not care for this book. It had a lot of hype, but when you read the reviews a lot of people have the same complaints; too over created and just a copy cat of the manson story. I did not like any of the characters, sort of was disgusted by Evie. She was just a worm of a person. I felt that Cline was trying to hard to create this world, this story, and it completely overshadowed anything good in the story. Very disappointed in this book. ( )
  MinDea | Mar 12, 2017 |
This book reads as if it was written by someone from the Manson Family. The stories are eerily similar. A good read, but if you know anything about the Family, you pretty much know this story. ( )
  angela.k.winters | Mar 6, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 101 (next | show all)
The Girls works a well-tapped vein in literary fiction: the queasy exploration of how young women with crippled egos can become accessories to their own degradation. Joyce Carol Oates and Mary Gaitskill are masters of this theme. Cline’s contribution is a heady evocation of the boredom and isolation of adolescence in pre-internet suburbia, in houses deserted by their restless, doubt-stricken adult proprietors where “the air was candied with silence.” The novel is heavy with figurative language; Cline has a telling fondness for the word “humid.” Not all of this comes off effectively (Evie’s mom makes Chinese ribs that “had a glandular sheen, like a lacquer”), but most of it does (Evie, dazzled by her father’s girlfriend, thinks she has a life “like a TV show about summer.”)
added by Nickelini | editSlate, Laura Miller (Jun 7, 2016)
 
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I looked up because of the laughter, and kept looking because of the girls.
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The sun spiked through the trees, like always--the drowsy willows, the hot wind gusting over the picnic blankets--but the familiarity of the day was disturbed by the path the girls cut across the regular world. Sleek and thoughtless as sharks breaching the water,
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