Tuesday 24 July 2018

Mini-Review! - The Girls by Emma Cline

(Warning: this post discusses and refers to serious topics such as rape and child abuse. Please be careful my nerdlets.)

The Girls title image with girl standing in a field with flowers overlaid

Title: The Girls

'The Girls' book cover

Author: Emma Cline


Adult Fiction*, Historical Fiction*, Crime*, LGBTQ+ (M/F, F/F)*✢ 

*(ish - it's a really difficult book to define tbh!)

✢ The LGBTQ+ and F/F rep isn't great (neither is a lot of the M/F tbh,) see main review.

Amazon: USA


Evie Boyd falls in with The Manson Family a cult that is definitely NOT The Manson Family. *shifty glances.*

Seriously. Who is the author kidding?

This book is about the Manson murders.

Yes, Cline's changed the names, and a couple of the fine details, but that's it.

If you have 'The Girls' in a murderous Californian cult, who live in a ranch in the Summer of '69, and follow their charismatic hippie-ish leader, then we're talking about The Manson Family.

Did Cline hope to not be sued by ex-members who weren't involved in the murders? 

Or was it so that she could neatly side-step the thorny narrative problem of Manson's attempted race-war? (Because she did.)

Hell, Manson was still alive when she wrote it, maybe she was just trying to stay off his radar. 

(This is the reason I have most sympathy with! I wouldn't wanna be on his radar!)

I really did enjoy this book - it's the kind that screams out for weather like our current heatwave.

I literally read most of this lying out and sweltering on my bed; like, the whole summer of '69 thing is long, hot, lethargic days where reality and unreality are blurred.

So in this case it was the perfect match of book to weather.

This book is fascinating in that macabre way that The Manson Family is fascinating.

Something about the grimness and the horror of what happened holds a gruesome sort of appeal.

But, my God, it's also a hot f**king mess, from an objective standpoint.

If you step away from its captivating spell for a moment, this is a book where several grown-a** adults have sex with a fourteen-year-old girl, and IT ISN'T VIEWED AS A PROBLEM.

Even Evie's adult POV, reflecting on that time, doesn't seem to view it as in any way wrong.

Her relationship with Suzanne is romanticised af, despite everything Suzanne does. (Which is a lot of bad things.)

There's also a sex scene which... NO! Just stop. It's NOT ok.


It's not OK. It's not romantic.

There's also something deeply harmful about the only F/F rep being romanticised abuse.

That really pi**es me the f**k off. Queer girl rep should not have to put up with b*llsh** like the relationship between Suzanne and Evie.

A secondary problem was the casual drug-taking and underage drinking.

Again, this is presented as perfectly normal, bordering on aspirational.

(Yes, yes, I know. It's California in the '60s. That doesn't make it right.)

So, despite the allure of the 60s California vibe, and the genuine readability and enjoyableness of this book, I can't recommend it.

If you still wanna give it a try though, I hope you enjoy it - just, be careful, ok?

The Manson Family's macabre spell is alive and well in this book.

Don't get too swept up in the romantic notions, and forget the harm that lurks beneath.

Content Warnings:

Some of these are romanticised (see previous section) so be careful, dearest nerdlets.

- cults

- murder

- child murder

- paedophilia/rape (adults having sex with underage kids)

- abuse (child, domestic: physical, emotional, sexual)

- neglect (child: emotional, physical)

- sex-trafficking (women and teenage girls being 'leant out' as 'favours')

- victim-blaming

- runaways

- drugs

- underage drinking

- breaking and entering/theft


How much do you know about the Manson murders? What do you think of changing the names and details of real events? Talk to me! 😊💬

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Last updated: 24th July 2021


  1. I remember borrowing this book from the library and reading the first chapter and just never going back to it because I was a bit scared. Now I’ll admit, books about cults fascinate me but I don’t know a lot about the Manson murders and do find it a bit scary. Maybe one day I’ll pick up this book again when I’m feeling brave but I don’t have high hopes.

    1. Ha, it's not that scary... but then, I read horror, so maybe it is! The Manson murders themselves do genuinely freak me out because there's just so little logic to them, but they were so consciously carried out - these weren't spur-of-the-moment murders, y'know?! *shudders*

  2. My immediate thought is that maybe Cline got herself under Manson's spell somewhat which is why so much of that gross behaviour is romanticised and normalised. It's scary how such cults are still fascinating - like watching a cobra

    1. I try not to watch cobras - but ok! ;)

      I think maybe you're right... there is something highly captivating about the whole thing, and that def. comes through in the writing.

  3. YIKES, okay, yeah, I'm going to give this one a miss. I think maybe it's best I stick to nonfiction about the Manson murders -- somehow it's less upsetting to read about the version that really happened. And there's the bonus of the gross shit not (hopefully) being romanticized. :/

    1. Ha, fair enough! Don't blame you. (And yeah... hopefully non-fiction avoids romanticising, but then again, this world we live in...)

  4. This book sounds to deprived for my liking. I don't like to read about twisted horrific child murder/rape etc.

    Thanks for the warnings!

    1. I'm not sure whether you mean contrived or depraved... I think, you probably mean depraved? (Correct me if I'm wrong.) In which case, you're not wrong, it deals with some pretty depraved sh**.

      No problem - I think it's best to be honest about content!


Comments? I love comments! Talk to me nerdlets!