Laura Gallagher

Trapped in the Web

The Girls

By

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It is probably the cheapest aspect of 25-year-old Emma Cline’s debut The Girls that earned her the rumoured seven-figure advance and high-profile investment in the film rights: the part she owes to the Manson Family murders at Roman Polanski’s home, which became particularly notorious because two of the three murderers were girls. Cline’s novel opens with a middle-aged Evie Boyd looking back on 1969, the year she was fourteen and went to live on an abandoned ranch with ‘the girls’ of the title, followers of a Manson-like figure called Russell. There is dark allusion to a violent event: ‘It begins with the Ford idling up the narrow drive … The girls in the backseat holding hands.’ We don’t know the extent of Evie’s ‘involvement’, only that she ‘wasn’t mentioned in most of the books … gross with specifics, down to the undigested spaghetti they found in the little boy’s stomach.’ There are fat bribes for the reluctant reader – upon meeting a future victim, Evie reflects, ‘He’d be the first. The one who tried to fight back, to run’ – and some rather heavy retrospect: ‘There was so much, that first night, that should have been a warning.’ Finally the violence is described in ample detail for the punter of macabre tastes.

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