I just finished reading The Girls by Emma Cline. If you’re interested, the book is a spin on the Charles Manson cult, of which I don’t know much except what is now common knowledge. It opens the door to a subject that I probably wouldn’t have broached otherwise, but my greatest interest in the book is the girls themselves. I can’t believe how many flashbacks I had to my teenage self: the insecurities, the self-consciousness, the second-guessing, all completely self inflicted because you think everyone is watching and judging you. The reality is, 99% of people don’t care who you are, what you look like, or what you’re doing, but it takes years to learn that lesson. These characters are all so real, like people I’ve actually known. The way the girls seemingly exist just to be around a man, to please a man, waiting for a man to acknowledge them, or, that they strive for approval from other “girls.” I don’t know that all women feel this way, but it hearkens back to an outdated model that I’m not removed from. Fussing over your hair and make-up, clothes, diets, all the ridiculous things “girls” do to elevate themselves because their mothers, or their girlfriends, or Cosmopolitan magazine, or some famous beautiful women made them feel like they ought to. I also found it compelling that the narrator, Evie, spends most of the book pining after another girl who mocks cultural norms of 1969 women, but who herself is pining after a man and going to crazy lengths to please him.
Overall, I read the lesson to be that we all have ideal characters we want to play, maybe based on a conglomerate of real or imagined people, but a look behind the curtain reveals that they are just as conflicted and human as everyone else. And maybe it isn’t their fault that we build up a persona of perfection around them, but who would admit to doing that? I also have to add that Emma Cline is a beautiful writer–she concisely delivers these images and emotions in ways I’ve never read before, but that are really striking and enjoyable to read. Although I was irritated by Evie’s dull post-teenage existence, I couldn’t put this one down!