The Girls by Emma Cline
Here is one author to keep your eyes on, Readheads.
Emma Cline has written a beauty with The Girls and while not the easiest of reads or most fun, it is certainly a damn fine one. My heart broke a little with each page and not because it is super sad in the traditional sense, more so because it is filled with absolute and utter tragedy.
This book has some similarities with Hope Farm which you know I loved – young girl, commune, absent mother, hypnotic schmuck – but this one is way more sinister. Strangely enough though, the same amount of dope is consumed.
I was left thinking ‘What the Hell?‘ at the end of most of the chapters. Who are these people? What were they thinking? Not much I realised having finished this book – just thinking about themselves.
Evie Boyd is a teenage girl living in California and we meet her in the summer of 69. She is drawn to a group of young women – dirty, thieving, wild, free, exciting. She follows them to their ‘community’ which is a nicer word for what it actually was – a harem-come-cult governed by Russell – a God like creature (they think anyway) intent on changing the world to promote real and powerful love … one young girl at a time. Ugh.
Evie falls further and further into the fold, further and further away from her old life. New rules apply at the commune and she plays by them all. Underneath the free-love, oh my, there is a dark side and while the story has whiffs of Charles Manson about it, the writing by Emma Cline elevates it to an almost dreamlike state. There is buoyancy in the despair and romance in the freedom Evie feels, even though your heart is heavy as you read about her days (or daze, both apply).
Things go from bad to worse…surprise, surprise…so at this point, I suggest you just hold on to what ever is closest, and keep reading. The commune implodes, people show their very worst selves and it all goes from kumbaya to hell in a handbasket.
Evie escapes, miraculously.
She talks to us as her teenage and adult self – slicing back and forth between girl and woman. The impact of those years in the community last a lifetime, the scars are deep and while the answers appear there for her, they remain obvious and illusive at once.
Lena Dunhum writes that this book will break your heart and blow your mind. She’s right.
It is a brave novel by Cline so be brave Readheads and read it.
And that is my 2 cents.