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The Girls: A Novel
by Emma Cline

Published: 2016-06-14
Hardcover : 368 pages
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43 clubs reading this now
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Recommended to book clubs by 7 of 12 members
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • An indelible portrait of girls, the women they become, and that moment in life when everything can go horribly wrong—this stunning first novel is perfect for readers of Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Virgin Suicides and Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon ...
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Introduction

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • An indelible portrait of girls, the women they become, and that moment in life when everything can go horribly wrong—this stunning first novel is perfect for readers of Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Virgin Suicides and Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad.

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST AND NPR

Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence.

Emma Cline’s remarkable debut novel is gorgeously written and spellbinding, with razor-sharp precision and startling psychological insight. The Girls is a brilliant work of fiction.

Praise for The Girls

“Spellbinding . . . A seductive and arresting coming-of-age story hinged on Charles Manson, told in sentences at times so finely wrought they could almost be worn as jewelry . . . [Emma] Cline gorgeously maps the topography of one loneliness-ravaged adolescent heart. She gives us the fictional truth of a girl chasing danger beyond her comprehension, in a Summer of Longing and Loss.”The New York Times Book Review

“[The Girls reimagines] the American novel . . . Like Mary Gaitskill’s Veronica or Lorrie Moore’s Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?, The Girls captures a defining friendship in its full humanity with a touch of rock-memoir, tell-it-like-it-really-was attitude.”Vogue

“Debut novels like this are rare, indeed. . . . The most remarkable quality of this novel is Cline’s ability to articulate the anxieties of adolescence in language that’s gorgeously poetic without mangling the authenticity of a teenager’s consciousness. The adult’s melancholy reflection and the girl’s swelling impetuousness are flawlessly braided together. . . . For a story that traffics in the lurid notoriety of the Manson murders, The Girls is an extraordinary act of restraint. With the maturity of a writer twice her age, Cline has written a wise novel that’s never showy: a quiet, seething confession of yearning and terror.”The Washington Post

“Emma Cline has an unparalleled eye for the intricacies of girlhood, turning the stuff of myth into something altogether more intimate. She reminds us that behind so many of our culture’s fables exists a girl: unseen, unheard, angry. This book will break your heart and blow your mind.”—Lena Dunham

“Emma Cline’s first novel positively hums with fresh, startling, luminous prose. The Girls announces the arrival of a thrilling new voice in American fiction.”—Jennifer Egan

“I don’t know which is more amazing, Emma Cline’s understanding of human beings or her mastery of language.”—Mark Haddon, New York Times bestselling author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Editorial Review

An Amazon Best Book of June 2016: I was put off by the idea of this book--the twentysomething author is writing about the 60s, an era that may even predate her parents; it features a very Manson-like cult (really, is there anything more to say?) and, well, it comes with a lot of pre-publication “buzz.” So hear this: The Girls really is as good as they’re saying. First of all: it’s called The Girls for a reason; While this mesmerizing debut does involve a charismatic Mansonesque leader in California in the late 1960s, it is more focused on the girls in his cult, the ones who enthrall 14 year old Evie Boyd, a self-conscious child of divorce, privilege and malaise. The tale of the girls and the cult and the ultimate violence they commit is told by Evie, now a middle aged woman with regrets. Some of the parallels Cline tries to draw between the teenaged Evie’s rage and that of some current young people in her life can be strained but Cline’s observations are preternaturally mature and her writing strong. (A character the girls are attempting to rob lies “on her kitchen floor, calling my name like a right answer.”) The subject matter may be familiar--and I don’t just mean Manson, I mean the way teenagers can be terrified and terrifying all at once--Cline’s The Girls is surprisingly timeless and perfectly creepy. --Sara Nelson, The Amazon Book Review

Excerpt

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Discussion Questions

1. The Girls takes place in the summer of 1969. When Evie explains the era to Sasha, she says “It was a different time … Everyone ran around” (144). Do you think that what happened to Evie could have only happened in the 1960s? Or is her story a timeless story? How might her story be different, if it happened today?

2. One of the central relationships in The Girls is between Evie and Suzanne. What did you make of their connection? The first time they meet, Suzanne is hesitant to let Evie come along (94-95). Does she sense something about Evie from the very beginning? What might it be?

3. Evie describes the “constant project of our girl selves” and the specific attentions that project requires—the make-up, the grooming rituals. Did you see a parallel in Evie’s mother’s behavior? What are the similarities and differences between Evie’s “constant project” and her mother’s new search for “an aim, a plan”?

4. 1. In looking back at the time before her parents got divorced, Evie describes “the freedom of being so young that no one expected anything from me” (78). Do you think that freedom still exists when she is a teenager—or has it already disappeared? Why might that sense of freedom start to vanish, as she gets older?

5. Evie delineates the difference between the attention girls can get from boys, and the attention they can get from other girls: “Girls are the only ones who can really give each other close attention, the kind we equate with being loved” (34). What do you make of this? Is something all of the girls in this story are aware of, consciously or unconsciously? Do you think it holds true forever, or does it change as girls grow older?

6. At the same time, though, Evie says that she “didn’t really believe friendship could be an end in itself, not just the background fuzz to the dramatics of boys loving you or not loving you” (49). How does this notion change and evolve as the story goes on? Do you consider Evie’s relationship with Suzanne to be a friendship, or something different?

7. Evie is constantly sizing up other girls and women, measuring their beauty and assessing them “with brutal and emotionless judgment” (34). But Suzanne, she decides, “wasn’t beautiful … It was something else” (68). How does this complicate her understanding of, or attraction to, Suzanne? Is beauty something that is valued by Russell, Suzanne and others, in the world of the ranch?

8. What did you make of Evie’s dynamic with Sasha? What similarities to—and differences from—her teenage self might Evie see in Sasha? Why do you think Evie tells Sasha so much about her past?

9. Why do you think Evie decides to mess with Teddy Dutton, when she brings his dog back to his house? Does she have a newfound feeling of power, after spending time at the ranch? Do you think that interaction with Teddy paves the way for her and the girls’ later intrusion into the Dutton house?

10. Were you surprised by the character of Tamar, and her relationship with Evie? How does Tamar differ from the other girls and women in the story—from Suzanne, from Connie, from Evie’s mother?

11. Looking back, Evie questions whether she might have known what Suzanne and the others were planning, and whether she would have participated: “Maybe I would have done something, too. Maybe it would have been easy” (321). Do you think Evie would have gone through with it, if she had stayed in the car? Why, or why not?

12. At the end, Evie describes Suzanne letting her go as “a gift” (351), allowing Evie to have the normal life that Suzanne herself could not. But she reflects that it might have been easier to be punished and redeemed, as Suzanne was. What did you make of Evie’s still-conflicted feelings about that chapter in her life? Would it ever be possible for someone in Evie’s situation to make peace with the past? If so, what do you think prevents her from doing so?

Suggested by Members

Do Evie and Suzanne see their alter egos in each other? Does Suzanne see in Evie a privileged life she secretly longed for?
Is Evie's pent up hate equal to the hate acted out by Suzanne? What has restrained Evie and what caused Suzanne to act out?
At the end of the book Evie calls herself "a fugitive without a crime", does she regret not being involved in the murders? Does she envy Suzanne's stardom in jail?
by fernandezjavier007@gmail.com (see profile) 09/12/16

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Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
by loladep (see profile) 07/08/17

 
by kamj3 (see profile) 05/27/17

This was not an easy read as the content was uncomfortable, but it was worth it. It is beautifully written and an impressive 1st novel. I thought the survivor psychology of someone who never deals with... (read more)

 
by Lindsayytuarte (see profile) 04/07/17

 
  "The Girls"by acoleman (see profile) 01/10/17

Not what I expected. Based on the Manson Murders, this throwback in time depicted an era of nostalgia mixed with fear that kept me wanting to keep reading despite the graphic nature of the story. You'll... (read more)

 
by Caddylady (see profile) 10/06/16

 
by angela.haskell@gmail.com (see profile) 10/06/16

 
by Djbg1 (see profile) 10/05/16

 
by Hillrat6 (see profile) 09/29/16

 
by Laurasmilies (see profile) 09/29/16

 
by fernandezjavier007@gmail.com (see profile) 09/12/16

What I found most gripping about the book was Evie's contemplation of her pent up hate as compared to the hate acted out by Suzanne. Evie was in thrall to Suzanne just as Suzanne was in thrall to Russell.... (read more)

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