The Girls – Emma Cline

“Emma Cline’s first novel, “The Girls” (Random House), is a song of innocence and experience—in ways that she has intended, and perhaps in ways that she has not. It’s a story of corruption and abuse, set in 1969, in which a bored and groundless California teen-ager joins a Manson-like cult, with bloody, Manson-like results. Evie Boyd, an only child whose upper-middle-class parents have recently divorced, wants to be older than her fourteen years, and is drawn to the free-spirited, rebellious young women she sees one day in a Petaluma park. They are looking for food to take back to the ranch where they live. The novel charts Evie’s accelerated sentimental education, as she is inducted into the imprisoning liberties of free love, drugs, and eventual violence, all of it under the sway of the cult’s magus, Russell Hadrick. In another way, though, Cline’s novel is itself a complicated mixture of freshness and worldly sophistication. Finely intelligent, often superbly written, with flashingly brilliant sentences, “The Girls” is also a symptomatic product not of the sixties but of our own age: a nicely paced literary-commercial début whose brilliant style, in the end, seems to restrict its reach and depth.”

~ The New Yorker

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