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The Girls Hardcover – June 14, 2016
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An Amazon Best Book of June 2016: I was put off by the idea of this book--the twentysomething author is writing about the 60s, an era that may even predate her parents; it features a very Manson-like cult (really, is there anything more to say?) and, well, it comes with a lot of pre-publication “buzz.” So hear this: The Girls really is as good as they’re saying. First of all: it’s called The Girls for a reason; While this mesmerizing debut does involve a charismatic Mansonesque leader in California in the late 1960s, it is more focused on the girls in his cult, the ones who enthrall 14 year old Evie Boyd, a self-conscious child of divorce, privilege and malaise. The tale of the girls and the cult and the ultimate violence they commit is told by Evie, now a middle aged woman with regrets. Some of the parallels Cline tries to draw between the teenaged Evie’s rage and that of some current young people in her life can be strained but Cline’s observations are preternaturally mature and her writing strong. (A character the girls are attempting to rob lies “on her kitchen floor, calling my name like a right answer.”) The subject matter may be familiar--and I don’t just mean Manson, I mean the way teenagers can be terrified and terrifying all at once--Cline’s The Girls is surprisingly timeless and perfectly creepy. --Sara Nelson, The Amazon Book Review
“Spellbinding . . . A seductive and arresting coming-of-age story hinged on Charles Manson, told in sentences at times so finely wrought they could almost be worn as jewelry . . . [Emma] Cline gorgeously maps the topography of one loneliness-ravaged adolescent heart. She gives us the fictional truth of a girl chasing danger beyond her comprehension, in a Summer of Longing and Loss.”—The New York Times Book Review
“[The Girls reimagines] the American novel . . . Like Mary Gaitskill’s Veronica or Lorrie Moore’s Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?, The Girls captures a defining friendship in its full humanity with a touch of rock-memoir, tell-it-like-it-really-was attitude.”—Vogue
“Debut novels like this are rare, indeed. . . . The most remarkable quality of this novel is Cline’s ability to articulate the anxieties of adolescence in language that’s gorgeously poetic without mangling the authenticity of a teenager’s consciousness. The adult’s melancholy reflection and the girl’s swelling impetuousness are flawlessly braided together. . . . For a story that traffics in the lurid notoriety of the Manson murders, The Girls is an extraordinary act of restraint. With the maturity of a writer twice her age, Cline has written a wise novel that’s never showy: a quiet, seething confession of yearning and terror.”—The Washington Post
“Outstanding . . . Cline’s novel is an astonishing work of imagination—remarkably atmospheric, preternaturally intelligent, and brutally feminist. . . . Cline painstakingly destroys the separation between art and faithful representation to create something new, wonderful, and disorienting.”—The Boston Globe
“Finely intelligent, often superbly written, with flashingly brilliant sentences, . . . Cline’s first novel, The Girls, is a song of innocence and experience. . . . In another way, though, Cline’s novel is itself a complicated mixture of freshness and worldly sophistication. . . . At her frequent best, Cline sees the world exactly and generously. On every other page, it seems, there is something remarkable—an immaculate phrase, a boldly modifying adverb, a metaphor or simile that makes a sudden, electric connection between its poles. . . . Much of this has to do with Cline’s ability to look again, like a painter, and see (or sense) things better than most of us do.”—The New Yorker
“Breathtaking . . . So accomplished that it’s hard to believe it’s a debut. Cline’s powerful characters linger long after the final page.”—Entertainment Weekly (Summer Must List)
“A mesmerizing and sympathetic portrait of teen girls.”—People (Summer’s Best Books)
“Cline’s exquisite set pieces are the equal of her intricate unwinding of Evie’s emotions. . . . The Girls isn’t a Wikipedia novel, it’s not one of those historical novels that congratulates the present on its improvements over the past, and it doesn’t impose today’s ideas on the old days. As the smartphone-era frame around Evie’s story implies, Cline is interested in the Manson chapter for the way it amplifies the novel’s traditional concerns. Pastoral, marriage plot, crime story—the novel of the cult has it all. You wonder why more people don’t write them.”—New York Magazine
“Hypnotizing . . . [Cline’s] eagle-eyed take on the churnings and pitfalls of adolescence—longing to be wanted, feeling seen, getting discarded—rarely misses its mark. In truth, it’s this aspect of The Girls . . . that stays with us after Evie’s whirlwind story concludes.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Gorgeous, disquieting, and really, really good . . . [Cline’s] prose conveys a kind of atmospheric dread, punctuated by slyly distilled observation. . . . What Cline does in The Girls is to examine, even dissect, these shifts between power and powerlessness that characterize a girl’s coming of age. . . . Cline, born years after the events she explores, brings a fresh and discerning eye to both the specific, horrific crime at her book’s center, one firmly located in a time and place, and the timeless, slow-motion tragedy of a typical American girlhood.”—Los Angeles Times
“A hypnotic, persuasively melancholy performance . . . The surprise of this novel is its almost studious avoidance of shock and sensationalism. . . . What Ms. Cline delivers instead is an atmosphere of eerie desolation and balked desire thanks to her sensuous turns of phrase.”—The Wall Street Journal
“[The Girls 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. . . . The adult Evie has never shaken the memory of the ranch, and Cline gradually makes clear that’s not because it was so very different from the average run of American life, but because it was, underneath it all, so similar.”—Slate
“Cline’s book is stunning, exceeding all expectations. . . . A spectacular achievement.”—The Times
“Taut, beautiful and savage, Cline’s novel demands your attention.”—The Guardian
“In her stunning debut novel, Emma Cline captures the powerful allure of California’s carefree late-sixties spirit through the eyes of a teenage girl seduced by a Manson-like cult.”—Harper’s Bazaar
“The buzziest book of the summer.”—Good Housekeeping
“As addictive as it is shocking.”—Marie Claire
“A dark, seductive coming-of-age story, The Girls is the thrilling account of a young woman getting sucked into a terrifying world.”—Buzzfeed
“[A]s fast-moving as a van on the run, as dark and atmospheric as the smog it cuts through . . . A complex story about girlhood, violence, and the psychology of cults, carried by the author’s buoyant sentences and easy insights into the paradoxes of femininity.”—The Huffington Post
“[A] thrilling coming-of-age novel imbued with an anxious urgency. As the drama builds and your eyes widen, it becomes ever more impossible to find a stopping point in this beautifully written book.”—Refinery29
“Longing and desire are the twin forces ricocheting in Cline’s beast of a debut. . . . It is one of the darkest and most alluring coming-of-age novels to drop in a good while. . . . Cline is an enviable talent right out of the starting gate.”—Electric Literature
“The Girls is seductive and mesmerizing, packed with language that’ll leave your pages dog-eared. You’ll feel like you’re in a fever dream as you read about an infamous cult of young women in 1960s Northern California. The Girls is a book that’ll stay with you all summer.”—Elle
“The Girls is an exploration of the precariousness of being a teenage girl and the perils of craving acceptance. . . . Cline has created a perfect slow burner of a story. Her writing is languid and astute, and the rapport she establishes with her audience is like a cat courting a mouse that it plans to consume.”—BookPage
“A thrilling debut novel about the power and danger of girlhood.”—PopSugar
“[A] provocative, wonderfully written debut . . . Cline is especially perceptive about the emulation and competition, the longing and loss, that connect her novel’s women and their difficult, sometimes destructive passages to adulthood. . . . The Girls is less about one night of violence than about the harm we can do, to ourselves and others, in our hunger for belonging and acceptance.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“In her impressive debut, Cline illuminates the darkest truths of a girl’s coming-of-age, telling a story that is familiar on multiple levels in a unique and compelling way.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Vivid and ambitious.”—Kirkus Reviews
“The Girls is a brilliant and intensely consuming novel—imposing not just for a writer so young, but for any writer, any time.”—Richard Ford
“Emma Cline has an unparalleled eye for the intricacies of girlhood, turning the stuff of myth into something altogether more intimate. She reminds us that behind so many of our culture’s fables exists a girl: unseen, unheard, angry. This book will break your heart and blow your mind.”—Lena Dunham
“Emma Cline’s first novel positively hums with fresh, startling, luminous prose. The Girls announces the arrival of a thrilling new voice in American fiction.”—Jennifer Egan
“I don’t know which is more amazing, Emma Cline’s understanding of human beings or her mastery of language.”—Mark Haddon, New York Times bestselling author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
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But then it became exhausting. Because while Cline is an incredibly gifted writer, she's not a great storyteller, and it got really tiring reading paragraph after paragraph of beautiful prose that essentially says nothing. The pacing was soooooo sloooooow. It took pages to describe the smallest details. The story, in a nutshell, is about a girl who becomes part of a cult, and the cult commits heinous murders. The premise is fantastic. But in my opinion, it was told from the wrong point of view. What should have been a fabulous imaginative retelling of Manson fell flat, because the protagonist is only a bystander, and a part-time one at that. She doesn't live with the cult - she goes home most nights. She has no memorable relationships with anyone else in the group, other than the one girl she's infatuated with. But because her attraction is one-sided, the relationship never develops. And other than this one girl, the other characters are barely sketched out. They only exist in her peripheral vision, hazy snapshots at best, and this includes the Manson-like character himself. The victims, we don't really know at all, so it's difficult to be horrified about what happens to them. Speaking of which, she's not involved at all in the planning of the murders, and she's even not there when the murders happen. All that build-up, and we don't even see the terrible thing that's the climax of the story.
The book is essentially one giant flashback, with a handful of present-day scenes telling us very little about the protagonist's life now (but I get why Cline choose to do it this way - if the story is told in flashback, she can tell it with added insight and hindsight, using lots of "little did she know's" to hint at what's to come - a cheap way to create tension, but I suppose it's better than no tension at all). In the end, though, it's so completely dissatisfying because we don't know what she's learned, or how she's grown. She hints at trying to help a young girl in the present-day, someone who reminds her of herself, but again, it never develops into anything.
This is a story that gets lost in its own words. I'm so disappointed. Great premise, great writing, weak story.
I am just saying, that's how the book reads. Blah!
Evie Boyd is the fourteen year old only child of divorced parents. Evie is basically a loner - aside from her one friend, overweight and annoying Connie. Evie spends her days drinking, smoking weed and masturbating. Evie also spends a great deal of time obsessing over her mother’s pathetic life. So what does a misunderstood, loner fourteen year old do in California in the summer of ’69? Why, she joins a cult of course. But not just any cult – THE CULT of all cults. Although Charles Manson and his Family are never specifically mentioned, readers can safely assume that’s exactly who takes in this little lost, pathetic and misunderstood rich girl.
The book starts off with Evie as a “middle-aged woman with varicose veins” (because all middle-aged women have them, right?) cowering in her rental when she hears a noise. Turns out it’s just the owner’s son coming to party with his girlfriend. The kid recognizes Evie as “that girl from the cult” (how, we have no idea) and is instantly in awe of Evie. Thus prompts the trip down memory lane and hence the story of Evie and The Cult. Unfortunately, everything from there goes rapidly downhill.
This book is so incredibly BORING it was literally painful to slog through it. The author is the queen of long-winded prose and similes. Similes are great…if they’re done well and done sparingly. However, the writing here is so overloaded with them that it completely mangles the story. I got a real sense that the author was trying darn hard to sound deeply profound, but she only succeeded in creating a rambling bowl of superfluous simile soup. It’s only 355 pages, but is so heavily padded with randomness that it seems MUCH longer. Ugh. I’m of the belief that simple writing is best. Why use ridiculous and wordy verbiage to describe even the most straightforward passages when simple words and phrases will suffice? This only results in slamming on the book brakes and disrupting the flow of the book. Let’s save the flowery writing for poetry, please. And not only was the bulk of the book ramblingly tedious – it was downright WEIRD. Talking about smelling her mother’s period in the bathroom? Seriously?
A lot of the book didn’t even ring true to the time period. Did this mysterious debut author and her team of Random House editors even research 1969? As an example, Suzanne and poor little rich girl Evie are on the road and need gas so they stop at a gas station to pump their own gas with a stolen credit card from someone’s mother. One, there were precious few self-service gas stations in 1969 and two, credit cards were rarely used back then…AND women couldn’t even get them. It’s true…look it up. There were no pump card swipers back then, so wouldn’t the attendant have noticed any of this? Apparently not, since “the family” was supposedly living off credit cards.
I don’t normally blast a book like this, but I’m tired of all the book hype publishers push on unsuspecting readers. The premise of this book was great – the execution was GOD AWFUL. I get it, perfectly good girls being lured into a subservient lifestyle by a masterfully manipulative murderer. Starved for the attention they didn’t get at home only to find themselves in a worse environment than before. There is literally NOT ONE likable or even relatable character in this whole mess. All hype and absolutely no substance.
Disclaimer: eBook Review Gal was fooled by all the hype and actually wasted good money for this book.
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