The Girls is Emma Cline's debut novel and with a cover that boasts heartfelt quotes from Lena Dunhan (HBO TV series Girls) and Mark Haddon (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) it certainly has a lot to live up to.
In the summer of '69, a teenage Evie Boyd is looking for something more, somewhere she fits in. When she sees the raven haired Suzanne she sees someone she desperately wants to be. A girl surrounded by friends, comfortable in her own skin and oozing a confidence that makes people look.
When Suzanne steps off a ramshackle bus and offers a hand to Evie, she takes it and embraces the chance to peak into a completely different life. She joins Suzanne and the other girls as they return to their home, an old neglected ranch on the outskirts of town. There Evie meets the leader of the group, the widely adored Russell. The girls talk about him with adoration in their eyes and follow him unquestioningly in how to raise their children, live their lives and share their love.
As an adult Evie reflects on her time with the group, the now world famous cult. She remembers the experiences that shaped her, when she was too young to say no, too insecure to say stop and the loss she still feels at being abandoned by Suzanne right before the cult hit the headlines.
The Girls is a truly outstanding debut. This is the kind of book that makes you want to cancel your weekend plans, curl up on your own in a cosy room and indulge in the intoxicating world Emma Cline has created. The pacing isn't light-speed fast but the lyrical writing style is a thing of beauty that keeps you coming back for more as the plot slowly unfurls. You flit between Evie as a teenager and Evie as an adult, almost feeling like two separate characters it's the young Evie you warm to and the older Evie you cannot help but feel sorry for. Her entire life is shaped by an act of violence that she was almost involved in and the haunting 'what if?' never leaves her. What Emma Cline has nailed perfectly is the growing sense of unease that swells with every chapter. She lulls you in, slowly making you uncomfortable in your seat as you see the warning signs that the young Evie refuses to.
The Girls has the feeling of a modern classic from the first chapter. Beautifully written, packed full of well rounded characters and a female protagonist that you're unsure you should warm to, but you do anyway. This is without doubt one of my top ten novels of the year, don't miss it!
Buy your copy of The Girls from Amazon here.
Buy your copy of The Girls from The Book Depository here.