Please note that I gave this book 2.5 stars and rounded it up to 3 stars on Goodreads.
This year I seem to be doing badly with new releases that get a lot of critical acclaim. I found myself bored and restless while reading Emma Cline's "The Girls." This was Cline's take on the Manson murders with details and names changed and re-imagined. I always thought of Charles Manson as a deeply charismatic man who managed to attract a lot of people who were looking for "truth". However, "The Girls" follows one young girl named Evie Boyd who is more focused on one of the other girls in this book, Suzanne. In the end I didn't know what lesson I was supposed to be taking away from this story. That men are terrible? That girls are only there to do what they can to attract men? I honestly don't know. I was sitting around deeply confused while reading.
I thought there were a lot of great lines in this book that definitely gave me a sense of what Cline was trying to say. However, a couple of great lines does not make a great book. I think in the end that the character of Evie was lost and just not that interesting.
The book starts off in the present with Evie living/taking care of a friend's home. I had so many questions about this because the more you read the book, Evie has almost zero friends. So it's weird this one random man and her are in touch and he thinks well enough of her to let her stay at his home. When her friend's son and his girlfriend suddenly arrive, Evie starts reminiscing on her past.
I wish that I had liked Evie. I think at times it was just too hard because she was such a contradiction throughout the book. Past and present Evie really have not learned anything it seems and by the end of the book I just pitied her. She's going to pass away one day and you have the sense that no one is going to mourn her. Though Evie will probably still be thinking of Suzanne.
Other characters in this book are somewhat developed or not developed at all. For example, Evie's mother I thought I got a pretty good handle on. I actually felt sorry for a woman who does not quite know what to do in this phase of her life after her husband has left her for another man. Even though she knows it's wrong, she takes up a relationship with a man who is married and seems determined to find some sort of happiness in her life. In a way Evie is a past version of her mother and I felt like Evie without realizing it was looking at a possible future of her older self. And perhaps Evie's would have went that way if she had not been so broken after the events that she dealt with in the 1960s.
Though I found Evie's mother interesting, I wish that more development had been incorporated into characters like Suzanne, Russell, and Evie's father. Evie's obsession with Suzanne and her need for her to show how much she loved her was surprising since it is pretty apparent that Suzanne does not care for her. Evie later on in her life trying to pin positive motives to Suzanne just rang false.
The book switches between past and present and honestly it wrecked the flow of the book. Evie soon becomes fixated on the girlfriend of the son of the owner. I just found the whole thing sad. She's still looking for someone to come along and claim her in a way. I don't know. The scenes between this threesome and later when a fourth party emerged turned me off. When the book tries to go into depth about a horrible incident that Evie and others hint at I felt a bit let down.
The book ends with a whimper and you don't get a great feeling of satisfaction about the other characters you have been introduced to in the book.