Hearing about The Girls on a podcast I knew I had to read it, in a strange possibly morbid way I am intrigued by the Manson family. The control, the mind washing, the cult just amazes me that something like this actually happened and is not the plot of a movie.
This book is based on the true story of the Manson Family Cult as the main character Evie wants to grow up and be recognised as an adult. This is set in 1969, a different way of life compared to modern times and as Evie heads into the town centre to enjoy the warm California summer she becomes interested in a group of girls. They look dirty with short dresses showing off their long legs and their long uncombed hair falling down their backs. After speaking with them Evie is persuaded to shoplift for them and suddenly she is attracted to their way of life and their freedom.
Over the girls is Russell, a character who seems heavily based on Charles Manson. He is in control of the ranch, the head of the family and he flaunts it with his control over the girls, the money, the food and even the character Mitch Lewis who is based on Terry Melcher. in real life Manson was promised a record deal by Melcher and when their relationship turned sour Manson gave the instructions to go to the house and kill everyone there leading to the famous murders. This is even documented in the book and although it is based upon the Manson Family with some name changes there are definite references to the people involved. I am not sure how much research Emma Cline did for this book however the comparisons are obvious however I would be interested to know how close the personalities of the characters are to the truth.
Emma Cline has written a story that allows readers to see this cult from a different angle, and that is from the eyes of an innocent young girl that is learning about life and growing up. Evie sees a chance to have fun, try something new and adventurous during a time when love and freedom is promoted on every corner. It is difficult to see her character manipulated and pressured into different situations by Suzanne and the others as she is young and her experiences are that of an adult, they don’t treat her as the child she is and suddenly she is swept into the world of adulthood. The story bounces from past to presence and we hear from Evie years later as she reminisces her time in 1969. It is tough hearing from her as an adult because from her actions and interactions with people around her it becomes apparent she has some mental health issues and some trust issues. It’s not clear whether her social or mental issues stem from this event as you do get insight into her family life which is in some ways unstable, but either way it is difficult to see her as an adult as she is a confident child in the beginning of the book.
One aspect I particularly enjoyed about this book was the layout and the writing. The chapters chronicled different days or situations making it easy to read and I did take my time with this book as some sections and topics are hard to process. The writing flows with adjectives, descriptions and places the reader in the middle of California’s searing heat and at the centre of the ranch surrounded but the family. Despite the book overflowing with character’s Emma Cline takes her time to introduce each person and their individual qualities so it is easy to follow the plot.
I gave this book a 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads as I really enjoyed it. The only reason I didn’t give it a 5 out of 5 was because I just felt something was missing, maybe I was that excited to read it that I put it on too high of a pedestal. Whatever I felt was missing should not stop someone else from picking up this book and enjoying it, the plot, the characters, the story and of course the truth mirrored in its pages.