Book review: Emma Cline's *The Girls*

I finished Emma Cline’s The Girls a few days ago. It was good, but not great. The story of a Manson-like cult, culminating in an analog of the Sharon Tate murders, it is narrated by Evie, a girl who was a teenager in the cult’s orbit. The story is barely about the cult leader (or the murders for that matter) at all, focusing instead primarily on the narrator and her relationships with the other women in the cult.

The story is told in a series of flashbacks, interspersed with sequences of the now adult Evie trying to live a semblance of a normal life. These sequences do not work nearly so well as the flashbacks. Perhaps Cline is trying to show Evie adrift and unable to forge real relationships as an adult, but if so, that is not clear. The current-day narrative meanders, wth half-formed characters drifting in and out of Evie’s history in the intervening years. It almost seems like Cline added these sections as an afterthought or framing device.

Cline is a gifted writer, though, and her prose is a pleasure to read. I appreciated the fact that Russell (the cult leader) was tangential to the story, with Cline keeping the focus (apropos of the book’s title) to the girls. Considering this book is Cline’s first, I recommend checking it out, and I definitely look forward to her subsequent work.

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