As the summer of 2018 was coming to an end, I decided to live through the summer of 1969. But, I wasn’t alone, Beth @ Bibliobeth joined me, as our September buddy read was The Girls by Emma Cline.
Evie Boyd is desperate to be noticed. In the summer of 1969, empty days stretch out under the California sun. The smell of honeysuckle thickens the air and the sidewalks radiate heat.
Until she sees them. The snatch of cold laughter. Hair, long and uncombed. Dirty dresses skimming the tops of thighs. Cheap rings like a second set of knuckles. The girls.
And at the centre, Russell. Russell and the ranch, down a long dirt track and deep in the hills. Incense and clumsily strummed chords. Rumours of sex, frenzied gatherings, teen runaways.
Was there a warning, a sign of things to come? Or is Evie already too enthralled by the girls to see that her life is about to be changed forever?
The Girls is an extremely atmospheric read, one that may be ideal for those who enjoy literary fiction and reading about cults. Evie is young, and impressionable, and when she meets Suzanne, she desperately wants to fit in. As the days roll by, you see how life is for Russell and his followers, the girls, does Evie get the chance to be one of the girls, or is she always on the peripheral, never really fitting in? Little does Evie know, the summer of 1969 will shape her life forever, and become one she will never forget.
Part one, of this novel, sets the scene, shows you Evie’s relationship with her mother, and her best friend; it shows you Evie as a fourteen-year-old girl, and this is important in helping the reader understand the events that will follow. It took me a few pages to settle into Cline’s writing style, but once I did, I loved it – it’s hazy, hypnotic, it’s gritty, gripping.
You immediately warm to Evie because you can see she’s ‘playing pretend’ at being older that her years, you just know she’s heading for trouble and you want to tell her to stop, just enjoy her youth and not be in such a hurry to grow up! You may see comparisons between Evie and your younger self, not necessarily in her actions, but the driving force behind them – the desire to fit in, to be liked, to be sexy, feeling pressured to engage in reckless behaviour while playing it cool. There were so many moments in this novel that showed that, with all the innocence of a kid, Evie was thrust into this world of adultness, and she tried to cope as best she could. Her vulnerability is endearing because that older, wiser person in you just wants to protect her, and that’s what makes you invested in the story. That, and the desire to know what event caused this group to implode!
What you see with Russell and his girls is essentially a cult, a close-knit community where sex and drugs are rife. The girls wear dirty clothes, hygiene is not a priority, young children are running around unsupervised, and when you read this novel, you get a sense of discomfort from the way these people are living.
In between the summer of ’69, you hear from Evie as an adult, and this was really comforting, because you knew, no matter how bad things got, Evie survived it. However, to see if she survived unscathed, you’ll have to read The Girls for yourself.
There’s some fairly shocking moments in this novel, both brutal and heartbreaking. I highly recommend you relive the summer of ’69 through Evie’s eyes, the sex, drugs, infatuation, and manipulation of a young girl who makes some unwise decisions and has no choice but to learn to live with the consequences.
Previous buddy reads with Beth