August: “The Girls” by Emma Cline
BOOK OF THE MONTH: SEPTEMBER 2016
The Girls by Emma Cline
I was at a dinner party this week and, as usual, everyone wanted to talk “books” with me. I should not have been surprised, but everyone was curious what I thought about the hot new book of the summer, The Girls by Emma Cline. I can’t remember the last time a book by a debut writer received this much attention and media without being nominated for an award. You can’t walk through an airport without seeing a wall of faces on vibrant red and blue covers staring out at you. The novel is on every weekly bestseller list in the country. It is ensconced at number one in LA and number two on the Holy Grail of lists, The New York Times.
From an industry standpoint it is obvious that the publisher bet on this novel and put the full force of their marketing budget behind its release. However, if readers had not embraced the book the hype would not have been sustained. Word of mouth can defeat any amount of marketing in just a few weeks. In 2009, The Help (written by a then unknown Kathryn Stockett) had similar buzz and we all know how readers made that book soar through the stratosphere. The Girls has the potential for similar success — especially with Scott Rudin having bought the film rights before it was even published.
Literary Affairs clients may not be aware of it but I receive books months before they are published. All of these books are vetted before they are recommended to book clubs. I would never select a book purely on buzz or promotion by a publicist. I am looking for literary fiction that leaves a space for thoughtful interpretation and conversation. I choose quality novels that afford me the opportunity to discuss style, structure, language and substance. Our August Book of the Month, The Girls by Emma Cline, meets all of these criteria.
The Girls goes beyond the sensational idea of fictionalizing the Manson girls. I was fascinated by what was at the center of this novel. Cline asks you to delve into the psychology of an adolescent girl, a child of divorce with a contentious relationship with her mother. She presents a coming of age story twisted by the times in which the young girl was living. A time in this country shaped by the Vietnam War, drugs, hippies, and widespread disillusionment. I found myself questioning how a girl just like many of us could end up being drawn into the sphere of a Manson like cult. The story is told in flashback so we also see how her choices impacted her whole life. Most of my book clubs have already enthusiastically selected The Girls to discuss in the coming months. Our August Book of the Month will give your group a lot of interesting and controversial material to talk about in your comfortable living rooms with a glass of wine.
ABOUT THE BOOK
It’s the violent end of the 1960s in Northern California… 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.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Emma Cline is from California. Her fiction has appeared in Tin House and The Paris Review, the latter of which awarded her with their Plimpton Prize in 2014.