Are you tired of seeing Emma Cline’s debut, The Girls, reviewed on #ALLTHEBLOGS yet? There’s a reason it’s everywhere – it’s very, very good (and an exceedingly impressive debut).
What can I say that hasn’t already been said about this book? Not much. It is worth mentioning that Cline nailed the following:
1. Writing a book about a teenager that is meant for adults. There were flickers of recognition as I read, Cline capturing feelings that were so fleeting I’d almost forgotten they existed. Too often I read teenage characters that I think are unbelievably sophisticated or mature. Or, at the other end of the scale, completely lacking any emotional intelligence or street smarts – it’s rare to get the balance right but Cline does it.
“I waited to be told what was good about me… All that time I had spent readying myself, the articles that taught me life was really just a waiting room until someone noticed you – the boys had spent that time becoming themselves.”
“All the pious and pastel urgings to wait, to make yourself into a present for your future husband: there was relief in the plainness of the actual act.”
2. Writing about an historical event… But not. Granted, I knew very little about the Manson murders but even so, Cline created tension throughout and I was in no doubt about the time and place.
“I was picking up the particularities – how they held hands without any self-consciousness and dropped words like ‘harmony’ and ‘love’ and ‘eternity’.”
“The possibility of judgement being passed on me supplanted any worries or questions I might have about Russell. At that age, I was, first and foremost, a thing to be judged, and that shifted the power in every interaction onto the other person.”
3. Cline’s language is beautiful, arresting, evocative.
“So much of desire, at that age, was a willful act. Trying so hard to slur the rough, disappointing edges of boys into the shape of someone we could love. We spoke of our desperate need for them with rote and familiar words, like we were reading lines from a play. Later I would see this: how impersonal and grasping our love was, pinging around the universe, hoping for a host to give form to our wishes.”
“When she hitched me closer, I felt the knock of her hip ones. These moments of kindness were never anything but dazzling to me.”
I reckon whatever Cline does next will be stellar (no pressure Emma!).
4/5 Read it.
I received my copy of The Girls from the publisher, Random House UK, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
As part of the 20 Books of Summer reading challenge, I’m comparing the Belfast summer and Melburnian winter – the results for the day I finished this book (June 28): Belfast 12°-18°, Melbourne 4°-15°.