Review of ‘The Girls’ by Emma Cline

When I mentioned this book on Twitter, a lot of people said they were interested in it- and so today I thought I would write a full review of ‘The Girls’ by Emma Cline. It was such a gripping, disturbing, and intense read- and I’m so excited to share all my thoughts on this well-written book!

This review contains some discussion of sexual abuse and violence. I’ve not discussed it explicitly, but if you find this upsetting, please do not read any further or check out another of my reviews.

‘The Girls’ focuses on Evelyn, a young teenager living in California in the late 1960s. She is unhappy and on the brink of womanhood, feeling uncomfortable and at odds with her family.

Her parents have recently separated, and with her mum introducing her new boyfriend she is feeling angry and alone, spending her time wandering the town and trying to stay far away from home. One day she spots a group of strangely dressed, pretty teenage girls, walking around town with the confidence and self-assurance Evelyn hankers for.

She watches these girls whenever they come to town, and eventually manages to tag along when they return home to their ranch. These girls all live together, and the ranch is filled with children and teenagers of varying ages who run wild, with no adult supervision. They live off the land in a kind of ’60s hippy “paradise”.

All the teenagers are in awe of their “leader” Russell, a charming man who “looks after” the girls, earning their love and constant admiration. The girls would do anything for Russell, and Evelyn soon becomes swept up in the allure and excitement of life on the ranch, heading back there whenever she can.

Before she knows it, Evelyn is treated like another of Russell’s girls- and she is soon sleeping with him and the famous friends he needs to impress. At the end of the summer Evelyn is heading to boarding school, and this book chronicles the awful events perpetrated by the inhabitants of this ranch in the lead up to school starting.

The book swaps between Evelyn’s time on the ranch in the ’60s, and modern day- with Evelyn a woman now, and living in her friend’s summer house. Her friend’s son is also staying in the house with his girlfriend, and so this modern day part of the book discusses how the son treats his girlfriend- and provides a clear link between the awful events at the ranch with the treatment of women’s bodies and feelings in modern day America.

‘The Girls’ is loosely based on the Manson murders- and the links between the real-life events and Cline’s book are striking. She looks at figures such as Roman Polanski and Charles Manson himself, using fictional characters to represent the girls involved in this awful cult during the late 1960s.

Picture credits here

One of the things that struck me in this book was the way in which these teenage girls truly were victims. They came from broken homes and just wanted to be loved- and that led them to adore Russell like a God, sleeping with him and believing anything they did for him made them even more loved by him.

The view of women’s bodies by society in this book was disturbing, with both ’60s Evelyn and modern day Evelyn discussing the way young women are used and abused. Russell views the teenage girls as commodities who will do anything that he wants, and in the modern day part of the book, Evelyn watches Sasha, her friend’s son’s girlfriend, reduced to just a body without consideration of her feelings.

I feel strange saying I enjoyed this book, as it was disturbing and explicit in a way that made me uncomfortable- especially as it was loosely based on real-life events. It’s shocking to think that one man managed to completely control so many teenage girls, sexually abusing them and making them think it was love in a way that was not just disgusting but highly illegal.

However, this was such a gripping, thrilling read that I couldn’t help but get sucked into the world Emma Cline created. It was so interesting to get an insight into a cult such as this, and looking at the events of the cult from a fictional perspective really made me understand just how abused these young girls were- and how brain-washed the victims had been.

These girls really believed they were loved, and they would do anything for Russell- and this stopped at nothing.

I really recommend this book, and it was so fascinating to learn more about the Manson murders- although of course this book was fictional. There were some very explicit scenes, and a few scenes were violent but I quickly raced through the book and it was written in such an easy style.

Did you enjoy my review of ‘The Girls’ by Emma Cline? Do you think you’ll give this book a go? Do you enjoy books based on real-life events?

Let me know all your thoughts in the comments below ๐Ÿ™‚

Happy reading x

65 thoughts

  1. I never read this book but I was always drawn by the cover when book shopping. When I started reading your review I thought I heard some of the same things in real life and then realised the connections. I think I will give this a try to understand more of what went behind it. Thank you for sharing x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it’s all based on Charles Manson- it’s really interesting to get an insight into the girls involved (while remembering it is fictional, of course!). I’m glad you enjoyed the review, thank you x

      Like

  2. This sounds like such a fab book. I’ve not heard of it but it seems like a fascinating read that I’d really enjoy. Loved reading your review and I’m off to add it to my Goodreads list now, haha!

    Tash – A Girl with a View

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This sounds like such an intriguing and chilling book. I had not heard of it before now, but I find stories about cults absolutely fascinating. (William Hills- After the fire is one such book) It is horrific what some people have endured. I shall be adding this to my goodreads list. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve seen this book mentioned on Twitter by a number of book bloggers quite a few times but I hadn’t really paid much attention to it for some reason. But I finally got curious as to what it was about and this sounds like it would be quite the book to read. I don’t know a lot about the Manson murders but I am intrigued by the contents of this book, so I may have to slip it into my TBR.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This book sounds fascinating. As I was reading your review, I couldn’t help thinking about the ranch scenes in the 2019 Quentin Tarantino movie, “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.” It was unsettling to watch that movie, knowing that although it was fictional, there was also a mix of truth to it. I’m sure it would feel similar reading this book, with it’s mix of fictional and real characters, and a storyline that loosely follows the Manson cult.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ooh I’ve not heard of that film, but I think anything from that period is unsettling and chilling. I think it sounds very similar, fascinating but also disturbing in its realistic air! I hope you enjoy this one if you give it a go x

      Like

  6. I read The Girls a couple of years ago, but I didn’t like it at all because I felt like it was overly written and I didn’t like the switching between timelines because it didn’t seem like the present perspective added much to the story. I’m glad you liked the book though

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This sounds fascinating! I love the way the author has linked the 1960s setting with modern-day issues, showing that the same underlying problems persist with how girls and women can be treated as commodities and the emotionally vulnerable ones are frequently exploited. I’m adding it to my to-read list!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have to be honest, this is not the sort of book I would pick up and read, I think I’d find it too disturbing. But wow, this was a fabulous review, you’ve shared enough without going into graphic detail. Thank you, Eleanor, it was clearly a hard book to read x

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Your review of this book is incredible. You really draw an incredible picture of what the book entails. Although it sounds like a gripping and interesting read I don’t think I could handle how explicit it is. It is hard to believe that real life events could inspire a book like this. Terrible things like that seem like they shouldn’t be possible. Again, great review as always!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’ve contemplated reading The Girls a few times as I find fiction that centres cultish followings really intriguing. Ultimately I think it’s probably too dark for me especially since it’s loosely based on the Manson murders. Your review has definitely solidified that for me, haha. Thanks for sharing your great review. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Wow, this sounds like a very powerful book! I find that I try and stay away from these as I get a little sad and when I read books, the feeling lingers for a bit. I would love to watch a movie on this though if they were to make a film adaptation! Thank you for sharing, Eleanor x

    http://www.lynnmumbingmejia.com

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This sounds like a book that would be really challenging for me to read. As someone with PTSD due to sexual abuse, I have to stay further away from content like this, but I do appreciate the way that you talked about that element in your review. You did a great job speaking on what was included without being explicit or creating an uncomfortable environment for your readers. Thank you for that!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Wow…this book sounds so good but super heavy! I agree with other commentary that I would have to be in the right head space to read this, but it is definitely on my TBR. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. That’s a really interesting book! Although it’s a bit explicit but if you’ll look deeper there’s a reason why it’s happening. This may also be true to life, I mean we never know.. this scenarios might really exist. It’s just upsetting that broken homes are usually the reason for it. Nice review by the way โค

    Liked by 1 person

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