The Girls.

By Emma Cline

Printed: 2016

Publisher: Chatto & Windus. London

Edition: First edition

Dimensions 17 × 24 × 4 cm

Language: English

Size (cminches): 17 x 24 x 4

Condition: Very good  (See explanation of ratings)

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Item information


In the original dustsheet. Red cloth binding with black title on the spine.

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** The Sunday Times Top Ten Bestseller **

** The New York Times Top Ten Bestseller **

The UK’s best selling hardback debut novel of 2016

Selected as a Book of the Year 2016 in the Evening Standard, Observer and The Times

California. The summer of 1969. In the dying days of a floundering counter-culture a young girl is unwittingly caught up in unthinkable violence, and a decision made at this moment, on the cusp of adulthood, will shape her life…. ‘This book will break your heart and blow your mind.’ Lena Dunham. Evie Boyd is desperate to be noticed. In the summer of 1969, empty days stretched out under the California sun. The smell of honeysuckle thickens the air and the sidewalks radiate heat. Until she sees them. The snatch of cold laughter. Hair, long and uncombed. Dirty dresses skimming the tops of thighs. Cheap rings like a second set of knuckles. The girls.

And at the centre, Russell. Russell and the ranch, down a long dirt track and deep in the hills. Incense and clumsily strummed chords. Rumours of sex, frenzied gatherings, teen runaways. Was there a warning, a sign of things to come? Or is Evie already too enthralled by the girls to see that her life is about to be changed forever?

Review: This book tells the story of an ordinary (though well-off) sixties teenager dealing with the usual teenage dramas and the breakup of her parents marriage, before getting involved with a hippie cult that ultimately turns murderous. I really loved how it created a sense of time and place. Reading it, you could really feel the heat of the California summer and smell the scent of incense. Both the normal, staid middle-class life and the counter-culture were nicely portrayed. It was all very atmospheric.

There was a phase a few years ago where every other book with a female protagonist and a dark edge was compared to Gone Girl. I thought that in most cases, this missed the fact that the best thing about Gone Girl wasn’t the twisty plot, but the clever passages ruminating on life, women, and relationships, which few of its imitators pulled off. Here, there are some similarly clever and relatable pieces of writing about being a teenage girl, which I really enjoyed. The ending (cult goes on a murder spree) is revealed in the opening chapter, so most of the drama is based less around what’s going to happen, more about how and why. I really enjoyed the journey and the sense of someone being sucked into something. Despite relatively little happening until the final drama, the focus on characters and relationships and things slowly taking a turn for the worse really sucked me in. If I’m honest though, I found it slightly hard to suspend belief enough to believe that someone as normal as the narrator could get sucked in to the cult so quickly and so deeply, or that the core cult members, who seemed a but odd rather than totally twisted, could commit such gruesome, cold-blooded murders. It didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story, but I’d have liked just a bit more explanation and build up.

Every so often, the narrative switched from the sixties to the present day, with the main character still scarred by her experiences and living a lonely life. These sections mostly focus on her meeting a teenage girl who’s been sucked into a borderline-abusive relationship rather than a cult, but who reminds her of her younger self. This part wasn’t bad, but I didn’t find it as compelling as the main story and didn’t feel it added much value. I was very caught up in the book as I went along, and I think that if I’d reviewed it as soon as I’d finished, I’d have given it five stars, but a week or two later, it hasn’t stuck in my mind in the way my all-time favourites do and I’m a little more conscious of its minor flaws. It’s a high four stars though, and I’d definitely recommend this. One final thought – the behaviour of the cult is one thing, but was how sexually active the main character was in her normal life (with her friend’s brother for example) realistic for a middle-class fourteen year old in the sixties?


Emma Cline is an American writer and novelist, originally from California. She published her first novel, The Girls, in 2016, to positive reviews. The book was shortlisted for the John Leonard Award from the National Book Critics Circle and the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize. Her second novel, The Guest, was published in 2023. Her stories have been published in The New Yorker, Tin House, Granta and The Paris Review. In 2017 Cline was named one of Granta’s Best of Young American Novelists, and Forbes named her one of their “30 Under 30 in Media”. She is a recipient of the Plimpton Prize.

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