The Girls, by Emma Cline

25 Mar
the girls emma cline

Four of Five stars

“They didn’t have very far to fall — I knew just being a girl in the world handicapped your ability to believe yourself.”

And that is basically the point of this story. It is really hard for me to review this book, because to do so honestly would be to admit that what this book says is true. It is difficult enough to relive those early teen years through the mind of a young girl, to remember how little in control of our lives we were – or assumed we were.

Evie Boyd falls into a group who Cline doesn’t remotely pretend isn’t the Manson Family. Location and names are changed but few other details are. But the book is not about the Manson family or about living with them – it’s about what allows a Manson family to exist. It’s about all the girls who blindly followed Manson because he offered them what they needed and then told them what to do, and that is how girls find out who they are – by being told. Be a good girl, be a polite young lady, use your manners. Everything the girls in this book do, they do in order to please someone else. You could argue that Tamar is different, that she is in control of her life because she left – but what was she doing there in the first place? The wives are pleasing their husbands, the girlfriends pleasing their boyfriends, the teens pleasing anyone who will give them validation – validation as to who they are, what their value and worth is. Even Evie can see that Guy (a not so subtle name) is not affected by Russell/Manson as the girls are. He follows Russell, he does what he’s told, but it’s for his own gain – girls and drugs. The girls are there for Russell’s approval. Evie wants only Suzanne’s approval, but she does whatever she has to do to get it, even handing over her body for the men’s use.

Are we different as adults? Many of us grow to be strong women, but strong women must still please to get along in the world. Dress appropriately or it’s your fault if you get raped. Don’t be bossy or you’ll be a bitch. Don’t put your child in daycare or you’re not a good mother. If you don’t have a career, you won’t be fulfilled.

“Please, I thought. Please. Who was I addressing? The man? God? Whoever handled these things.”
And that certainly isn’t Evie. Even as an adult she has little power.

Excellent, dark, dry, and sad, but so good. I didn’t like reliving my own young Evie and I’m glad it’s over. But the book is excellent.

I received an early copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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