My Rating: 4
Although the author never comes out and says it, The Girls is a fictional story based on The Manson Family and the Manson Murders. The characters are based on actual members of the Family, including Charles Manson himself, but the main character is completely fictional.
If you are unaware, Charles Manson is an American criminal who was the leader of a type of cult that arose in the late 1960s. Manson believed there was going to be an apocalyptic race war, and he grew a following of people who shared his beliefs and basically idolized him. This following became known as The Manson Family, and he eventually convinced them to commit multiple murders in his name.
The intention of this book isn't to detail the murders or to solve what happened, but rather, its main focus is to examine the psyche of the girls involved, as well as the members in general, and go into the situations that might make someone join something such as The Manson Family. I liked the fact that the author, Emma Cline, chose to focus on the psychological aspect of people who join groups like this, and I felt she told a convincing story of why Manson targeted specific people for his following.
The book is written in a very dry, matter-of-fact style, similar to that of The Virgin Suicides, but it was the perfect choice. The main character, a young girl named Evie, is telling the story as an older woman, and is looking back at that time through a mature perspective of the events. She alternates between being somewhat proud of being part of something so notorious, and being shocked that she was seduced so easily, and it was engaging to hear her look back and reflect.
Overall, The Girls was haunting and mesmerizing, sucking me in from the very beginning and not letting me go until the final pages. This was definitely not an uplifting book by any means and it could possibly make some readers uncomfortable due to its sexual content as well as its graphic violence, but it was eye-opening and intriguing to say the least. Although you won't be reading a historical account of The Manson Murders, you will be learning a lot about what might have been going through the minds of The Girls.