It’s the summer of 1969 and Evie Boyd is at a loose end when she first sees the Girls, picking through a dumpster for food, their dirty dresses skimming the tops of their thighs, their hair long and uncombed. Entranced by these older girls and their freedom and intrigued by their tales of Russell, the soon-to-be rock star, Evie is lured back to live with them at the ranch.
As a reader, we are told right at the start of this novel how it is going to end, and yet it is still edge of the seat reading. As time and circumstance pick apart Evie’s relationships with her mother, her father and her best friend in rich and visceral prose, we watch with horror as she is slowly drawn into the gravitational pull of people who ‘aren’t nice’. Emma Cline’s description of Evie’s hopes, fears and desires make for uncomfortable reading at times and her way of writing, with short phrases pulling on images after image, create a deep texture to the book which somehow softens the horror of it until the very end. The book was inspired by the murder of the actress Sharon Tate and four others by members of the Manson Family, a hippy cult led by Charles Manson in California the 1960s, and is Cline’s debut novel.
When he visits the ranch, Tom says of the girls that ‘these people aren’t nice’. Do you think Evie was ‘nice’ or ‘not nice’?
What part do you think fate or other people played in directing Evie’s actions or do you think she was responsible for her own choices?
Do you think any characters in the book take responsibility for their actions? Do you think they should have?
Did Suzanne like or love Evie or was she just using her to please Russell?
How well did you think the book depicted how young women might be drawn to a man like Russell (as was the case in the real-life example of Charles Manson and the Manson ‘Family’ in the 1960s)?
It could be argued that Evie’s role in the novel is really one of narrator, like Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby. Do you think this is the case? How would the story have changed if Evie hadn’t been there?
The story starts with Evie thinking of what happened to the murder victims because she fears an intruder. How do these chapters, set in the future, add to the telling of the tale?
Did knowing how the book would end, at the start, make an impact on your reading of the book? The-Girls-Discussion-Questions.pdf
After Mitch drops Russell and refuses to have anything more to do with him, Russell convinces Suzanne to take Guy and the other girls to Mitch’s house and teach him a lesson. Thinking they are only going to mess his house up, Evie begs to come along but half way there Suzanne stops the car and throws Evie out. Suzanne goes to a gas station where Tamar picks her up and takes her back to her father’s house. The next morning Evie sees on the news that four people were murdered at Mitch’s house that night including a mother and her child. Mitch had been away at the time. Because she is in love with Suzanne, Evie does not tell the police and goes off to boarding school where she is visited one last time by Suzanne. Eventually, Helen brags to an inmate that she was involved in the killings and the police finally find and arrest Russell, Suzanne and the other girls. Evie is not connected with the killings.
Emma Cline had a brief stint as an actress in her teenage years.