This one I picked up as a recommendation in Waterstones. Emma Cline’s ‘The Girls’ is a loose fictional retelling of the Manson murders in America. Knowing nothing about these when the book was recommended to me, I was intrigued and decided to give it a go.
I have mixed feelings about this novel – it showed such promise throughout the whole narrative by building the tension to a beautiful crescendo, but the ending really let it down. There was a gritty quality to the writing that really gave you a clear sense of character and a clear sense of place. The novel was branded more as a coming of age story than as a direct link to the Manson murders, which I think worked in its favour and you could think of it as a completely different entity rather than an extended creative non fiction piece.
Evie Boyd was an interesting character, and the questioning of identity that she experienced is definitely something that all girls of this age can relate to. What made her such an interesting character is that she wasn’t entirely likeable at points, which made her seem so much more real as a character. Her fixation on Suzanne draws pity from you as a reader, as it is clear that she is interpreting events as she wants to interpret them rather than seeing them for what they really are.
Evie as an outsider worked in the novel’s favour – the Ranch would have lost some of its mystery if we were right in the action all the time. The tension was built up really well throughout the narrative with the slow escalation of events, and made you hungry to find out what would happen next. This was more an exploration of Evie’s evolution as a character, flipping between time lines of herself in the present day and herself as a 14 year old girl. Though the modern day sections did hint that some kind of plot twist was coming towards to end of the book, and it was a little disappointing when this didn’t materialise.
This novel was really well written, with some really poetic descriptions sewn throughout the story, but all in all it felt anticlimactic. I thought there was something more coming in the later passages, and it was disappointing when this didn’t happen. As beautiful as the writing in the rest of the novel was, the ending really let it down because after all that wonderful tension and plot points it all felt a bit ‘meh’, which was a real shame because it had been such a good book up until that point.
I would give it a 3/5 because it was a good book and was sitting firmly as a 4/5 up until that ending, which really let it down. There are so many psychological thrillers saturating the market at the moment that this really needed a killer ending to make it better than it was.