Dr Lisa Warren, senior adjunct lecturer at School of Psychiatry at Monash University, once said in an interview with news.com.au that people are obsessed with murder because, “Fascination in extremities of human behaviour is common, because murder is an act beyond comprehension for most people.”
For author Emma Cline that fascination came at the hands of the Manson cult of the 1960’s. And yet, in her debut novel, The Girls, inspired by the Manson murders, Cline chooses not to focus on the gruesome details etched on everyone’s memory, and instead explores what could lead a girl down the dark road to violence.
Did Cline succeed in keeping interest in a true crime story without focusing on the murder itself? Keep on reading to find out my thoughts and opinions.
It’s the end of the 1960’s in Southern California, and Evie Boyd’s life is about to change forever. Befriending a group of unconventional girls she sees in a park, Evie finds herself living and loving on a ranch in the hills. Unbeknownst to her, however, is that the charismatic leader and his merry band of girls will soon become some of the most infamous murderers in Californian history.
I went into this novel thinking it was going to focus on the murders committed by the “Manson-esk” cult, but I think that what made the book so good was that it hardly focused on them at all.
Evie Boyd was such a well-rounded narrator that I really felt attached to her and her struggles to find who she is in the 1960’s. It was sad to see her be so lonely, and for that loneliness to be taken advantage of by people who didn’t really care if she was there.
I think it made it even worse, and yet strangely realistic, when it is revealed that Evie’s life didn’t get better once she escaped the cult. As I was reading the ending I was hoping that Evie would have made tons of friends at the boarding school, found love, and had a great life. Instead, well, I won’t spoil it for you but it isn’t good.
In the novel, Cline wants you to hate Russell/Charles, but, Suzanne as a character was way worse to me. She was the first one to exploit Evie’s weaknesses in the toilet paper scene, and to me, that was way worse than anything Russell did.
It was Suzanne and the other girls of the cult that made Evie feel welcome, and special, and loved. Russell only gave Evie what she thought she wanted, where as the other girls preyed on what she really needed.
If you read this book and enjoy it, may I also suggest you start watching Aquarius on NBC. It’s just like The Girls but follows David Duchovny as Detective Sam Hodiak as he tries to rescue his college sweetheart’s daughter from the clutches of the Manson cult.
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.