The Girls, by Emma Cline, is a book with a lot of buzz around it. It has been featured on many a ‘books of the summer’ list already, with great things being predicted both for the book and its young author. The film rights have already been purchased (and had been last autumn, when I was lucky enough to receive a proof copy of the book), and the chatter around the book is excited and seemingly everywhere in the book world right now.
Last October I was lucky enough to see Emma Cline talk about the book, at the Stylist Live event. She shared the stage with Salman Rushdie, and their pairing was quite inspired – the witty, well-known author-about-town, winner of the Booker of Bookers, alongside the hot new debut author. I loved the interview and learned so much about the process behind both writers’ books and writing, and was delighted to find a copy of The Girls on my seat, for me to take away and read.
It took me a couple of months to get round to reading the book, if anything because I was a little afraid. I knew many of the details of the plot from the talk, and I knew the heady claustrophobia of cults and teenage girls would be something I’d have to read in the right frame of mind. When I did sit down to read it finally I tore through the book at a rate of knots – it’s the kind of story that takes you in its jaws and drags you with it to the last page.
Cline’s descriptions are well-drawn and she doesn’t shy away from the gory details – images from this book crept back into my head at unexpected moments for weeks afterwards, and the detached way Cline approaches the myriad dark moments in the text, from murder to manipulation, makes it all the more real and terrifying.
The Girls follows the story of Evie, a teenage girl in a little town in 1960s Northern California who yearns to be seen, to be known. Like many teenagers she feels adrift from her family and apart from her friends, so when she meets some exotic, unusual girls one day she falls all too easily into a situation far beyond her control. The girls she meets are under the sway of the Manson-esque Russell, and before long, Evie is too…
This book is dark, startling, and filled with a quiet horror. The pace keeps you interested, but Cline is happy to spend a few pages meandering off piste to capture a scene, a moment or an image. I found this book compelling and supremely unsettling – it’s a blistering, challenging, firecracker debut.
Note – as I received the proof so long ago the book looks quite different now. It will be released in hardback on 16th June 2016.