When we were at Best Kept Secret, we spent a great deal of time in the Volkskrant Secret Garden. The garden was situated right behind Stage Two, hidden behind trees and full with picknick benches, homemade coffee and issues of the Volkskrant lying around. My Mom pointed out an interview with a young writer, who got a 2 million dollar book deal to write three novels. The author was Emma Cline and she wrote one of the most talked-about novels of 2016: “The Girls”.
The novel is based upon the notorious Manson Family murders in California in the late 1960s. Charles Manson was the leader of a hippie commune, consisting out of young boys and girls who had ran away from home. In the Summer of 1969, Manson and his so-called family committed a series of murders, including the one on actress Sharon Tate and her son. The tragic events became the subject of many news articles, police reports, true crime books, films, music and Emma Cline’s debut novel. In “The Girls” (2016), Cline focuses on the story of 14-year-old Evie Boyd, who becomes obsessed with a group of mysterious, sensual and dangerous young women. These girls are part of a cult led by a Manson-like leader called Russell. Before she fully realizes it, Evie is caught in a dangerous spider’s web, one that might be impossible to let go of.
I guess I have always sort of known about the Manson murders and I’ve read a few articles and stories about it – but the question that always lingered in my mind after reading about the gruesome and tragic events, was why? I didn’t necessarily wonder why these murders were committed – years of watching crime series and an introduction course into psychology have taught me that there often is no real, understandable answer to the question why somebody would commit a murder – but I always wondered why these young girls would commit them. Why a group of young woman would be so obsessed with a single man, so obsessed they would kill for him.
It always seemed so unreal to me, so impossible, but after reading Cline’s debut novel, I feel like I have found my answers. One of the most important themes in “The Girls” is adolescence and with this age comes the overwhelming desire to be noticed, to belong somewhere, to be loved. Young Evie struggles with this desire, this need, as she feels she does not belong in her hometown, or with her family and friends. When she meets the mysterious and sensual Susanne, she finally feels accepted, like she belongs somewhere. Evie’s greatest wish is answered and she would do anything for this wish to remain a reality. It’s a surprisingly simple answer to a very complex and dark question, but Cline offers it to her readers with so much mastery and understanding of her characters, it makes utter sense.
“The Girls” is a fascinating and beautiful novel, drawing its readers in with the same mystery and sensuality that draws Evie to Susanne. The story is flawless and intriguing, with powerful characters that you will not be able to forget for a very long time. Cline’s language is beautiful and masterful, using clever and daunting metaphors to make the readers relate to the horrors and tragedies described in the novel.
Emma Cline’s phenomenal “The Girls” brought back my love for reading, because it showed how good and compelling and inspiring a novel can be. The book showed me how much a story can do, as it fascinated, bewitched and inspired me. It’s a thrilling and compelling read, which I would recommend to everyone.