A book I see carried everywhere in New York is Emma Cline’s much-hyped debut ‘The Girls’. It has the perfect pop culture moment to pull upon, the infamous Manson Murders, albeit disguised.
The problem on the face it, is that this is such a well-known story that giving a narrative twist or surprise to the reader could proof difficult.
Cline skillfully gets round this by essentially creating, not a recreation of the oft told murders, but a coming of age novel where the protagonist, Evie, just happens to be coming of age with a bunch of soon to be serial killers.
It works brilliantly (believe the hype) because of the sensitivity of Cline’s depiction of the inner workings of a disturbed girl’s mind as she gropes towards womanhood.
The essence of the Manson tale are kept – the girls live on a ranch, they murder at the home of a celebrity but certain details are compressed or missed out where it suits the novelist.
For what interests Cline is not so much the obvious evil of the cult leader, here named Russell, but why such a man should have such a hold on often privileged and beautiful young women. What lies must women tell themselves in order to ignore the real truth of the object of their affection and more importantly why must they tell them?
The power of love as a twisted agent of evil is ever-present throughout, even when the book switches to the near present as a now middle-aged Evie is confronted with a young couple acting out the same patterns of sexual abuse that she herself experienced.
Once more a young girl’s desire to believe the relationship she has is one based on love blinds her to how it is anything but.