Review: The Girls by Emma Cline

James Walton 

It's official, your holiday reading has arrived. Our books editor is impressed by Emma Cline's long-trailered debut novel that more than justifies the hype. 

The Girls

Not many first novels of recent times have caused as much advance fuss as this one.

At 25, Emma Cline has already signed a seven-figure publishing deal, with the film rights to The Girls also snapped up. Yet there’s something about the book that’s likely to annoy struggling writers even more: it triumphantly lives up to the hype.

As a 14-year-old in California in 1969, the narrator Evie is dazzled by a group of hippy girls she meets in the park. Much to her delight, she’s then invited to their compound, run by the sinister Russell, whose flaky New Age teachings are eventually replaced by more murderous instructions to his female disciples. (So yes, the book has Charles Manson in mind.)

Cline does a fine job of conjuring up late-Sixties California. Even so, what really interests her—and us—is that, while their actions are certainly extreme, Russell’s acolytes may not be as unrecognisably weird as we’d like to think.

The book suggests that their willingness to sacrifice their identities for male approval is an impulse shared by young women everywhere.


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