The Girls by Emma Cline

The Girls by Emma Cline

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had tried to read The Girls before and it hadn’t quite worked out. I had been put off by the first few chapters because they were tight and dense things, unwilling to let me in and, I suspect, not really caring to be read. Just to be caring to be written, to tell a story that had to be told and not necessarily in a way that even the narrator understands. I find interest in that, and so I came back to The Girls for a second try and persisted in trying to figure out what it was and what this constricted, recursive prose had to give me.

And then, this time, I found myself unwilling to put it down. The Girls is something that revels in what it is and will, I think, take pleasure in letting you read the story that you want to read whilst telling you the story it wants to tell, and never quite worrying or caring if the two were to meet. Evie, our lead, falls into a life that is not hers, beguiled by the promise of a dark and dangerous something that she still can’t articulate, can’t quite understand, all those years later. Her story is told in flashbacks, fragmentary snatches of memory, and sentences that almost feel like she’s worked far too long over them, knowing that she can’t let them go, knowing that she has to. It’s brutal, final, bitter, and yet achingly otherworldly.

You know where this is going if you know your Hollywood history and even if you don’t, you know. There’s a brutal and vicious destination here and I think the book hinges on that, the memory of it, the expectation of it, the sad, desperate tragedy of it. It comes to define Evie and who she is, who she wants to be, the life she lives and the life she’s yet to live. This isn’t a linear book, it’s one that sort of collapses in on itself. Everything is everything, all at once, beautiful and awful, vicious and sad, and all you have to is figure out what story you want to make of that.

The Girls, then, this story is difficult and it is tight and it will put you off and it will leave you knowing that something important has happened here and that you’ll never quite know how you feel about that.

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2 thoughts on “The Girls by Emma Cline

  1. I don’t know this author at all, but I understand your experience of giving what is initially a confusing but evidently a worthy novel a second try, when one feels ready of course! Interesting proposition for the plot, certainly.

    1. Yes, I do think this is worth persisting with! It would actually make an interesting pairing with Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, I think. They both do something very specific and maybe quite similar with their story.

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