If you haven’t heard of this book then you must be living under a rock. Emma Cline’s debut novel is a fictionalization of the Charles Manson killings loosely based around the summer of 1969. The book itself having been the item of a bidding war between 12 publishers.
The Blurb (Courtesy of Netgalley )
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….
Evie Boyd is desperate to be noticed. In the summer of 1969, empty days stretch 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?
At the novel’s centre is the relationship between Evie and Suzanne. Suzanne having drawn Evie into the cult with magnetism that is at times otherworldly and undeniably human. Evie is a teenage girl with a very grown up head on her shoulders. Adolescence taking its toll on her, she enters this world of sex, exploits, violence and deprivation. What is and was commonly known as a ‘cult’ is now loosely known as the ‘Manson Family’.
I have to be brutally honest and say that I did not enjoy this book. It’s not something I would ever chose to read and is far from my genre of choice. It is hard reading and not for the prudish. These girls believed they were loved and part of a family when the reality was that they were brainwashed into believing that sexual abuse and ‘grooming’ was acceptable and living in disarray and putrid conditions was a way of life.
Emma Cline has a vivid understanding of human lives, both adult and child and portrays this in her writing. She writes with an unforgiving honesty and sometimes ruthless righteousness. If anything this book will make you think. Think about that summer in 1969 when ‘free love’ was associated with hippies and free rollers, when the reality shows bribery and manipulation. Think about how teenage girls think they have it all sussed and figured out, when actually they are being led down a slippery slope and are so easily influenced by the so called higher being. Think about how people, no matter what they do or don’t do they will always carry their actions and omissions with them, every day for the rest of their lives.
Thank you to Random House UK and Netgalley for an advanced reading copy of this book prior to publication in return for an honest review.
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