Book review: The Girls

THIS much-anticipated debut novel of Emma Cline, already a well-regarded short story writer and fiction reader for the New Yorker, will probably get summarised a lot as ‘that Charles Manson novel’. 

Book review: The Girls

Emma Cline

Chatto & Windus, £12.99; ebook, £7.99

But while it does indeed fictionalise the Manson murders, it’s really more about the agonies of adolescence.

Plot and structure are superficially simple. Evie Boyd, 14, is the drifting daughter of a failed marriage, languishing in the absent care of a mother preoccupied by her own insecurities.

As mum brings home a series of inappropriate men friends, Evie — desperate for attention, for adulthood, for something to happen — is easily drawn into the outlaw community of teenage girls and hangers-on centred on the darkly charismatic Russell, a self-styled prophet with a desperate hankering for a recording deal.

And we all know how that will go...

Wonderfully readable, finely written and acutely observed, this is that rare thing: a beach novel of real substance.

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