The Girls by Emma Cline is the type of book that is so exceptional, I almost feel like I’m doing it a disservice by blogging about it. I don’t usually place too much emphasis on the literary versus the non-literary (e.g. genre works, or “just for fun” books) because I think all books have a place in the canon. But The Girls is literary, in a way that I made me think “this book will be a classic someday.” Of course, I could be wrong– I’m nothing but a 22-year-old book aficionado with an English degree. But I’m not the only person who thinks this way. The Girls was named one of the best books of the year by publications from Vogue to NPR.
The Girls is a mesmerizing account of Evie Boyd’s summer in 1969. She becomes enthralled with three girls who she sees in a public park, who pull her out of the reverie of her sleepy childhood and into the turbulence of the late 1960s. The dull backdrop of divorce, sticky summer weather, and adolescent crushes falls away as Evie becomes involved with a Manson-esque cult.
I know what you’re thinking — “yikes.” That’s what I thought, too. “Why would I want to read about a cult?” The Girls is not a scary book. (I mean, you already pretty much know where it’s going). It’s not violent, and I wouldn’t even say it’s outright disturbing. At moments, it is quietly unsettling, but above all it’s lyric. Emma Cline’s writing has a stunning cadence and lucid descriptions. She paints a picture of Evie, a lost girl whose mundane life, when combined with the confusion of life in the late sixties, provides the perfect climate for her involvement with the most unsavory of characters. The Girls is a story of the familiar: the tiresome routines of adolescence, the quiet pain of a family’s dissolution. But it’s also a story of the otherworldly, the haunted. The Girls is a novel of the West — California in particular, and because of this it holds a special place in my heart.
The Girls struck me as thoroughly American, stemming from the tradition of crime novels like Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. It’s an amazing book, both captivating and thought-provoking, and I’ll be recommending it to everybody I know.