Stephanie Reads The Girls & The Girl with All the Gifts


The Girls by Emma Cline
When I heard The Girls was a fictionalized version of the Charles Manson family and the murders of Sharon Tate and her friends, I had to pick it up. The first half of this story really drew me in as we discover what is so tantalizing about this strange family dynamic that tears us away from life as usual. Our narrator, Evie, is infatuated more with one of the girls on the ranch rather than Charles, or Russell in the novel, himself. It’s more about her sometimes confusing, always earnest relationship with this girl. And how that relationship changes her over time.

The terrible murders were teased throughout the entire story from the recollections of Evie in the present to her flashbacks as a young girl growing up in this new, exciting world. But as we neared the horrific event, which is what her tale was leading up to the entire time, it just vaguely gloss over them. Perhaps this makes me a terrible person, but I wanted the gory, gruesome details of that night. I wanted our narrator to be there. I wanted her to take part. I wanted her to take responsibility. Maybe that’s just my love of true crime kicking in, but I was a little disappointed in how the end just petered out.

Overall, it was an enjoyable novel, but I wanted more from what I thought the novel was truly about for me.

The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
The Girl with All the Gifts is a story that will stick with me for a very long time. It’s been a while since I’ve been so instantly captivated by something, but I had a hard time putting this one down. Melanie is a young girl, going to school like any other child, except that she and her classmates are bound to wheelchairs, muzzles over their faces. They’re not quite monsters and not quite children either.

Some may write this off as another dystopian zombie novel, but that would be doing a disservice to the story it tells. Plus, the infected aren’t exactly zombies because they’re not really dead. They’re just… hungry.

When the shit really hits the fan, you feel as stressed as the characters. It’s a real nail-biter, which is bad when you have that habit, but good when you hold the book with both hands so you don’t do that. Again, it’s not about the apocalypse. It’s about the relationships that are built as a result of what’s happening. Melanie and Miss Justineau’s pseudo mother/daughter relationship was both fascinating and beautiful to experience, while other characters reached depths I didn’t know they were capable of. I also love multi-point-of-view storytelling. Melanie’s chapters were quick, short, fast sentences, which is how I imagined her brain worked, while Dr. Caldwell’s, for example, were long, languorous prose over-explaining the science of everything happening. It was all very well done with never a dull moment.

I can’t recommend this book enough. The final page left me in tears.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Tim Fox

    Steph, have you read “Helter Skelter”? I am also fascinated with the Manson story and wanting to know the details of what exactly went down that night and the next. I saw a film version of it a few years ago that went into that more than the film version of “Helter Skelter,” which I remember our parents not letting us watch. CBS aired it over two nights at 10:30 p.m. because it was thought to be so disturbing for the time (ca. 1976 or so). I was also fascinated by Manson’s weird obsession with the Beatles’ “White Album,” and all the supposed “clues” he saw in it, telling him what to do. All that back-masking, secret message shit fascinated me and probably led me into psychology as an undergraduate more than anything else. (One of my favorite jokes is of playing “Stairway to Heaven” backwards and hearing “Please patronize our snack bar.”) Anyway, thanks for writing about “The Girls,” but I’m afraid I’d share your criticism of the end!

    January 28, 2017 at 8:05 PM
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